Right. Left. Right. Left.
Sweat dripped from Frank Mason’s face as he made a lightning-quick crossover between his legs, sizing up former Kansas Jayhawks standout Ben McLemore before an awestruck Roundball Classic alumni game crowd Thursday night.
Mason blew by McLemore, got to the basket and unfurled an easy layup for two of his team-best 33 points, leading the Red squad to a 127-124 win over the Blue squad.
It was one of many Mason highlights — in a game he rarely exited.
“I told them I didn’t want to come out,” Mason said. “I wanted to play the whole game, but you can’t be selfish about it. Everybody gets to play.”
Mason, a former KU guard and national player of the year, is two months removed from his second season with the Sacramento Kings. Drafted in 2017, he spent his rookie campaign backing up point guards De’Aaron Fox and George Hill.
He spent the 2018-19 season in a similar way. Mason played third fiddle to Fox and Yogi Ferrell, often soaking up minutes toward the tail end of blowouts.
His season-best in points came in Sacramento’s second regular-season game, on Oct. 19, 2018, when Mason registered 18 points in 21 minutes, shooting 7-for-13 in a 20-point loss to New Orleans.
Two games later, Mason logged 14 points, five rebounds and seven assists in the Kings’ 126-114 loss to the Nuggets.
Mason’s averages last season: 5.1 points, 1.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 11.4 minutes per game, shooting 42% from the field and 22% from beyond the arc. He played in just 38 of the Kings’ 82 games.
That has put Mason’s NBA career in jeopardy. Upon getting drafted, he signed a three-year, $4.18-million contract with Sacramento, but the third year — the upcoming 2019-20 season — is non-guaranteed.
Translation: The Kings have a team option on Mason. If they don’t cut him by Oct. 15, he’ll earn the $1.6 million he’s owed for the season. Otherwise, he’ll enter free agency.
“It’s not going the way I want it to go,” Mason said of his pro career, “but that’s fine with me. It just makes it tougher and makes me work harder, and I believe in myself, and my time will come like always.”
He added that he wasn’t sure whether the Kings will pick up his option.
“You never know how it’s going to go,” Mason said. “You just have to be prepared for whatever. I’m ready for whatever.
“I enjoyed every part of it, every challenge. Like I said, it just makes me work harder, makes me want to be a better human being, and I’m just happy to be a part of the organization. Hopefully I’ll be back with them.”
NBA career aside, Mason, 25, said he enjoyed the experience Thursday night.
First, the scoring. Of his 33 points, Mason tallied several of them via extravagant layups, going up and under former KU greats and blowing by others for layups and drop-offs around the basket.
He also added six steals, by far a team-high.
And they came against players he knows all too well.
“It means a lot, watching those guys, growing up, when I came to KU,” Mason said. “It was a big deal for me get out here and compete against those guys Just happy to be a part of Jayhawk nation. It’s something that I’ll always remember, and something I’ll always cherish.”
The highlight of the night, though?
That was different.
“Winning,” Mason said. “I want to win everything I play.”