Kansas senior guard Frank Mason, the Big 12’s leading scorer, also tops the conference in minutes played per game.
His ironman status has made some wonder what Jayhawk coach Bill Self will do to make sure the Big 12 and national player of the year candidate stays strong the rest of the season.
“We don’t have a plan. He’s going to play,” Self said of the 5-foot-11 Petersburg, Va., native on Wednesday’s weekly Hawk Talk radio show.
“Yes, you can wear guys out. There’s no doubt about that and we have (in the past), but also, instead of taking him out more, let’s just practice less. That’s kind of how I see it with him because we need him in the game,” Self added a day after Mason exploded for 28 points, including 19 in the second half, while playing 37 minutes in an 81-70 victory Tuesday at Oklahoma.
Mason, who averages 20.4 points and 34.9 minutes per game for the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks (15-1, 4-0 Big 12), has logged 36.8 minutes per game in the first four league games.
On Wednesday, Mason and his teammates enjoyed a day off.
“If he’s going to play 36 minutes a game,” Self said, “and you are going to practice four times a week and go two hours a day, yes that would totally wear him out. Let’s play him 36 (minutes) and let’s practice him twice a week or 2 1/2 times a week, cut practices back to an hour and 15 minutes.
“I don’t see it changing if we are going to have a really good year,” Self added of Mason’s minutes. “Granted in a perfect world you want to play guys 30 minutes a game. I understand that. It’s not a perfect world for us from a what-our-team-needs standpoint.
“Our perfect world is for him to be in the game and hopefully do some things to make sure he takes care of his body on off days and rest days. Get more massages, things like that to help his body recover.”
Mason, who is second in the league in assists at 5.6 per game, hit 5 of 6 three-pointers Tuesday. He made all four attempts in the second half, upping his three-point field goal percentage to a league-leading 54.9 percent. Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans is second at 47.4 percent. Overall, Mason has made 53.2 percent of his shots from the field.
“The thing that’s most impressive to me has been his consistency as much as anything else,” Self said, noting Mason relishes every minute on the court.
“He doesn’t want to come out. He doesn’t think he plays near enough and he may be right. He maybe should be playing more.”
Self said Mason has been “terrific” his senior season.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who can doubt or think for a second that Frank is not one of the best players we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Self said.
“The only other guard I would say that is a true guard, would be Sherron (Collins) and Sherron was probably better over four years than what Frank has (been) because Sherron was so good when he got here.
“He (Chicago native Collins) was one of the best three or four players in our league as a freshman and as a sophomore. He just didn’t start. It wasn’t because he wasn’t talented. The pieces fit better with him coming off the bench.
“Granted your stats go down the second half of the season because you are playing competition in the league. People know how to guard you and they scout you better. But to date, I’d say Frank has had the best year of any guard we’ve coached here without question.”
Self stressed that no matter how well Mason has played, “he’s got to be better than what he’s been. We all have to get better.”
Graham has been good, too
KU junior guard Devonté Graham had 13 points, five assists and no turnovers with two steals in 33 minutes Tuesday night. Graham is second in the league in minutes played at 33.4 per game this season.
“Devonté has deferred quite a bit this year to allow Frank to do his deal,” Self said.
Graham has averaged 13.0 points a game, with 74 assists against 24 turnovers. Mason has 90 assists to 39 turnovers.
“A lot of people may say, ‘Well, Devonté’s numbers are not exactly where we thought they would be.’ That’s not because Devonté has not played as well. It’s just we’ve put the ball in Frank’s hands. Devonté doesn’t have it near as much as maybe he had it last year.”
OU game in review
Self, after reviewing film, gave this assessment of the victory at Oklahoma that pushed the Jayhawks’ record to 4-0 in the league.
“It’s about as poor as we can play the last 10 minutes of the first half,” Self said of a half in which KU was outscored 24-6 down the stretch. “Our shot selection was awful. They outquicked us. They were quicker. They were tougher. They did everything better than us.”
The Jayhawks, who were down 36-27 at the break, outscored the Sooners 54-34 in the final 20 minutes.
“If you really break it down, we played decent the first 10 minutes, awful the second 10 minutes, a great next 10 minutes and an average last 10 minutes,” Self said. “Our overall performance wasn’t poor except for that one terrible stretch.”
KU will next meet Oklahoma State at 1 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
If KU wins, the Jayhawks will likely be voted No. 1 in The Associated Press poll next week heading into a Big Monday game at Iowa State. Baylor, this week’s No. 1 team, lost to West Virginia on Tuesday.
Mason, Jackson on list
Mason and Josh Jackson have been chosen for the Wooden Award midseason top 25 list, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced Wednesday.
The 10-player Wooden Award All-America Team will be announced the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wooden Award winner will be revealed on April 7.
Monte Morris of Iowa State and Johnathan Motley of Baylor were other Big 12 players on the list.