Frank Mason has come a long way from the fall of 2013, when he was committed to play for Towson in the Colonial Athletic Conference. Mason didn't qualify academically and wound up back on the summer circuit, where he impressed the Kansas staff with his competitive fire and potential and pledged to play for the Jayhawks following a postgraduate year at Massanutten Military Academy.
As C.J. Moore of Bleacher Report profiled
, Mason was known as more of a scoring guard at the prep level, and never fully adjusted to his role of off-the-bench combo guard during his freshman season, oftentimes playing alongside starting junior point guard Naadir Tharpe, whose departure from the program in the summer of 2014 created an opportunity for Mason to take control of the team as a sophomore.
Now a rising senior, Mason has since extinguished any doubts about whether he is capable of being a productive player and floor general against Big 12 competition, as he has morphed into one of Coach Bill Self's most reliable players over the past two seasons. The Petersberg, VA native, who started just three games as a freshman, started 62 out of 63 games during his sophomore and junior seasons while posting solid passing metrics across the board.
The 22-year old lead guard has the keys to a Kansas team that has national championship aspirations, so he should be in the limelight with substantial opportunity to prove himself to scouts.
At 5-11 and 185 pounds, Mason lacks ideal height or length for an NBA point guard prospect. He compensates for his small stature with toughness, athleticism, strength and a solid basketball IQ.
A prolific jump shooter off the bounce, Mason scored 1.017 points per possession in such situations during his junior season, which ranked in the 90th percentile amongst all players in college basketball last season. At his best when he's in-rhythm, Mason is efficient as a shooter off the dribble because he is decisive, low to the ground and catches the defense off guard with his release.
He has improved as a catch-and-shoot option during his three seasons at the college level but still has to work on his shot preparation, as he often catches the ball standing straight up before dipping and starting his shooting motion, which wastes valuable time and causes him to rush shots as the defense closes out on him.
Boasting a 2.1-to-1 career assist-to-turnover ratio, the rising senior leader is generally a solid good decision maker with keen vision and the willingness to deliver passes to teammates on-time and on-target in their comfort zones. He is unselfish, moving the ball from side-to-side with speed and precision. Extremely fast in transition, the point guard pushes the ball up-court in the hopes of creating scoring opportunities for open cutters, perimeter shooters or himself.
Even though he has developed as a playmaker, Mason needs to take better care of the ball when facing pressure. He has bad habits of leaving his feet and killing his dribble before he knows where he wants pass. He also must tighten his handle and be more calculated with his dribbles to cut down his turnovers.
An excellent scorer in the pick-and-roll, Mason scored 1.017 points per possession and ranked in the 92nd percentile last season, according to Synergy. Adept at utilizing the screen or refusing the screen, the diminutive guard thrives when attacking in space. He's extremely quick with the ball in his hands and shows the ability to use a variety of dribble moves to find openings.
Mason has developed a consistent floater and running layup as options to catch the defense off guard and finish over the length of big men, necessities for a potential undersized NBA guard who has significant trouble finishing at the rim and doesn't have enough confidence to consistently finish plays with his left hand. His small stature will always likely be a hindrance around the basket, though, despite his extremely impressive explosiveness, as he converted just 43% of his half-court field goal attempts inside the paint last season, a very poor rate.
A member of the 2016 Big 12 All-Defensive Team, the lead guard is especially disruptive because he's capable of pressuring his assignment far from the rim, using his speed and strength to repeatedly turn the ball-handler. He is a determined competitor with quick hands and anticipation skills, which he has utilized to become an excellent rebounder considering his size, hauling in 136 total defensive rebounds last season (3rd most for the Jayhawks).
Still, there are instances where you would like to see him navigate pick-and-roll and off-ball coverage plays better. He needs to move with more force as he fights through screens and gets caught standing straight up as a help-side defender. When projecting Mason to the point guard position at the NBA level it's tough to see him being a true impact defender because of his limitations in terms of size, wingspan and strength as it feels like he's nearly maximized his potential on this end of the court.
Mason, who will turn 23 in April, is as an older guard who has improved year-over-year, and it is crucial for his NBA stock that he continues to produce and progress during his senior season. He is a tenacious competitor who has addressed the deficiencies in his game and shown the willingness to improve them thus far. Once caught in between positions, Mason has established himself as a floor general for Bill Self and a very successful, winning program over the past two seasons and will enjoy a long professional career whether he's drafted or not.