University of Kansas

KU notebook: Senior guard Frank Mason chosen as Wooden Award finalist

Kansas guard Frank Mason III is one of five finalists for the Wooden Award, which will be announced April 7.
Kansas guard Frank Mason III is one of five finalists for the Wooden Award, which will be announced April 7. skeyser@kcstar.com

Kansas senior guard Frank Mason on Monday was selected as one of five finalists for the 2017 John R. Wooden Award honoring college basketball’s most outstanding player, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced.

Mason will travel to Los Angeles on April 7 with fellow finalists Lonzo Ball of UCLA, Villanova’s Josh Hart, Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan and Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss for the announcement of the Wooden winner.

Mason and KU freshman Josh Jackson were chosen to the 10-player Wooden All-America team. They were joined by Ball, Hart, Swanigan and Williams-Goss, plus Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, Duke’s Luke Kennard and Kentucky’s Malik Monk.

Frank Mason reflected on his four years at Kansas after the Jayhawks' 74-60 loss to the Oregon Ducks on in the NCAA Midwest Regional Final on Saturday, March 25, 2017, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Preston tweets about KU

KU signee Billy Preston, who is competing for the West team in Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-America game (6 p.m. at Chicago’s United Center), posted some encouraging words on Twitter to Jayhawk fans following a 74-60 Elite Eight loss to Oregon on Saturday at the Sprint Center.

“It’s OK. Promise we’ll be back with a vengeance next season #RCJH #KU,” read the tweet of Preston, a 6-9, 230-pound senior forward from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., who is ranked No. 8 nationally by Rivals.com.

Of his performance at the McDonald’s practice on Monday, Zagsblog.com wrote: “After a slower start, Kansas-bound power forward commit Billy Preston showed off his versatility and impacted the game (scrimmage).”

No. 1-ranked Michael Porter Jr., a 6-9 senior out of Nathan Hale High in Seattle (and before that Father Tolton Catholic in Columbia) who has committed to Missouri, is a teammate of Preston on the West team.

“For lack of a better description, the West practice was pretty sloppy at times. After somewhat of a slow start, the future Missouri Tiger got things going. He scored at the rim, he hit deep jumpers and he certainly caught the attention of the 50-plus NBA personnel seated along the baseline,” wrote Eric Bossi of Rivals.com.

West team member M.J. Walker, an uncommitted 6-5 senior shooting guard from Jonesboro (Ga.) High, has co-favorites in Georgia Tech and Florida State according to Rivals.com. He said KU, UCLA, Ohio State and Maryland are also on his list. Rivals.com’s No. 20-rated player has taken just one visit — to Florida State.

“There wasn’t anything flashy about Walker’s performance (at Monday’s practice), but he was very steady. The physicality of college ball shouldn’t be a problem for the strong and tough shooting guard,” Bossi wrote.

Juiston thankful

Hutchinson Community College sophomore forward Shakur Juiston, the MVP of the National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament who is considering KU in recruiting, was gracious after scoring 18 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out seven assists in Saturday’s 84-58 national title victory over Eastern Florida State.

“It’s a blessing to even be here,” the 6-7, 215-pound Juiston told the Hutchinson News after being chosen tourney MVP. “Not even to play here, but be on this floor.”

Juiston, who grew up in a rough part of New Jersey, is considering KU, Iowa State, Illinois, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, St. Bonaventure, Seton Hall and VCU, the Hutchinson News reported. Zagsblog.com has also mentioned Rutgers, St. Joseph’s, UConn and UNLV.

Ranked the No. 1 juco prospect nationally by jucorecruiting.com, Juiston entered the tourney averaging 16.7 points (on 61.4 percent shooting), 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game.

Eerie stat

In the last four seasons (145 games), only two KU players attempted at least six threes in a game and missed them all: Devonté Graham in the 2017 Elite Eight and Wayne Selden in the 2016 Elite Eight.

Graham was 0-for-6 from three and scored three points in Saturday’s loss to Oregon. Selden was 0-for-6 from three (6 of 8 on two-point tries) and scored 16 points in KU’s 64-59 loss to Villanova in 2016.

Mason stock up; Graham’s down; Josh the same

ESPN’s Chad Ford says Mason’s NBA draft stock is “up” following the NCAA Tournament. He lists Graham’s stock as “down” and Jackson’s as neutral.

Of Mason, Ford wrote: “Teams love his toughness, speed and shooting stroke. He’s undersized, but he was the only one who could really do anything against the shot-blocking prowess of (Jordan) Bell. Lots of scouts seem willing to spend a second-round pick on him. I just don’t think he sneaks into the first.”

Of Graham, Ford wrote: “Graham had his best game of the tournament against Purdue, going off for 26 points and shooting 5 for 9 from three, but he was absolutely awful versus Oregon, finishing with just three points and missing all seven shots he took from the field.

“A number of scouts had Graham as a sleeper second-rounder, but his struggles against Oregon surely left a sour note. Graham may also want to consider that with Mason graduating, he can have the point guard position to himself next year and try to work his way into the first round. He has the talent — much more talent than he showed on Saturday in Kansas City.”

Of Jackson, Ford wrote: “The production wasn’t quite there (in the Elite Eight game), but the effort was and that’s a huge selling point for Jackson. He’s a gamer. All in all, it looks like Jackson ends the tournament right where he began, looking like a pick in the 3 to 5 range, with a small chance of still going No. 1.”

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