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Top 30 Seasons Under Bill Self: #3 Frank Mason 2017

MIami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Five Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, and Conner Frankamp were all top 50 recruits in Kansas’s top ranked class of 2013. Rounding out the class was the 118th ranked player in the nation and 8th ranked player in the state of Virginia alone, and yet when it was all said and done, Frank Mason had the best college career, and season, of any of them.

The 2017 National Player of the Year gave everyone a glimpse of what was to come right away, when he put up 30 points on 20 shots from the field and had 9 assists in the season opener against Indiana. Then, against preseason favorites Duke, Mason scored 21 points on 13 shots, and added this iconic moment:

For the season, Mason tore up the Big 12, leading the conference in minutes played, points per game, win shares, win shares per 40 minutes, and 2nd in Box Plus Minus.

Mason’s PRPG is the best in KU history since the stat was created in 2008, and his box plus minus is 7th among KU players since 2008. Given the big man bias involved in that stat, it’s even more impressive (and also makes me think I should have ranked both Chalmers and Dotson higher).

It’s human nature to give Mason some bonus points considering where he came from. He had to play a year of prep school because he failed one class his senior year of high school and couldn’t graduate. At that time he was committed to Towson, who has only made the NCAA tournament twice, in 1990 and 91, and has never won a postseason game in Division 1. Mason went from that to getting spot minutes at Kansas as a freshman, then starting his final three years in Lawrence, including his incredible 2017 year.

Perhaps most startling was his improvement as a shooter. Mason had a slow, low release as a freshman and needed seemingly minutes to get his shot off. While he was never in possession of the quickest trigger, Mason improved enough as a shooter to be able to shoot reliably off the dribble, especially around screens, and went from shooting in the low 30 percent range as a freshman to 47 percent from three as a senior.

While Mason was a great statistical defender as a junior, he took a step back as a senior (and via the eye test as well, although when you carry the offense like he did that is understandable). The other minor nitpick with his game is his (relative) lack of assists. Given the offensive talent on that team, Mason certainly could have ranked higher than 10th under Self in assist rate for a lead guard, but given how efficient he was at scoring, it’s tough to blame him for not passing more other than to note he would have saved some energy.

In the end, any of the top 3 guys on this list are very defensible choices at #1. I originally had Mason at two when I put the list together, but the top 3 was debated by me over and over again before coming to the conclusion I did, so I certainly would not disagree if someone had Mason higher. One thing is for sure though, if we were ranking a best 30 stories under Bill Self, it would be tough to find one better than Frank’s.

Previous entries:

4. Devonte Graham 2018

5. Thomas Robinson 2012

6. Marcus Morris 2011

7. Wayne Simien 2005

8. Devon Dotson 2020

9. Mario Chalmers 2008

10. Sherron Collins 2009

11. Perry Ellis 2016

12. Dedric Lawson 2019

13. Jeff Withey 2012

14. Tyshawn Taylor 2012

15. Brandon Rush 2008

16. Joel Embiid 2014

17. Sherron Collins 2010

18. Darrell Arthur 2008

19. Cole Aldrich 2010

20. Ben McLemore 2013

21. Markieff Morris 2011

22. Andrew Wiggins 2014

23. Jeff Withey 2013

24. Josh Jackson 2017

25. Marcus Garrett 2020

26. Travis Releford 2013

27. Perry Ellis 2015

28. Udoka Azubuike 2018

29. Wayne Simien 2004

30. Devonte Graham 2017

31. Malik Newman 2018

32. Wayne Selden 2016

33. Keith Langford 2004