When I started compiling this list, I wasn’t sure where to put Mason. It was actually his insane 2017 season that got me thinking about the top 50 (or so) Jayhawks of all time, and how remarkable it was that a kid who was so lightly recruited became one of the best players ever at a program like Kansas.
When I got down to it, it was pretty obvious he needed to be in the top 10. Mason currently is all over the Big 12 career leaderboards, ranking 10th in career win shares, 12th in Box plus minus, 4th in offensive rating, 22nd in assist rate, 20th in true shooting percentage, 7th in assists, and 2nd in both games and minutes played.
Whenever people end up famous, or do something notable, the hip new thing is to go back and find embarrassing tweets from their past and bring them up. If I ever become famous, I sense a thousand retweets coming of some tweets I sent back in Mason’s freshman year wondering why he was even on the team, much less playing in games as a freshman. Whoops. It became obvious as a sophomore what an idiot I was, and as a senior, Mason proved himself to be the best player in the country.
It’s a famous in KU circles story now, but when Kurtis Townsend discovered Mason, KU was in the midst of recruiting another point guard. As the story goes, Mason killed him all day that day, and Townsend called Bill Self to tell him about it. Mason was committed to Towson at the time, but one failed high school class doomed him to a year of prep school, and ultimately to Kansas. If you’ve watched every Kansas basketball game for the last four years, as I have, you’ve heard either that story, or how Mason was his high school’s 2nd all time leading scorer after Moses Malone, or both, during every game. But because Frank Mason is the subject of the story, you don’t get tired of hearing it.
His senior season started with a game winning jumper over Duke in the Champions Classic. He had an insane layup in a win over Stanford. He had one of the best hustle plays you’ll ever see in a win over Kansas State. And he definitively showed who the national player of the year was with a 26, 7, and 7 effort in the Sweet 16 against Purdue, and the other national player of the year candidate Caleb Swanigan. Mason won basically every national player of the year award, and for good reason. He’s the only player in Big 12 history to average 20 points per game and 5 assists per game, and he finished his career with 1,885 points, good for 6th all time in Kansas history.
Frank Mason was overlooked his entire career by coaches and talent evaluators, and he got the last laugh. He was also certainly overlooked by me, and certainly got the last laugh. In a recruiting class with Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Wayne Selden, Mason is the guy who made the biggest mark in Lawrence. I once wondered why I had to watch Mason out there in a Kansas uniform; now I wonder how I’m going to be able to watch Kansas basketball without him out there.