Raking in the college hoops awards: Coach praises former MMA prep standout Frank Mason III

University of Kansas senior point guard Frank Mason III passes around Purdue's Isaac Haas during the first half of a regional semifinal game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament on March 23 in Kansas City, Missouri. Mason, a former standout for Massanutten Military Academy's postgraduate boys basketball team, has won nine national player of the year awards this season. AP file

Frank Mason III was an overlooked college basketball prospect coming out of high school five years ago. Now the former Massanutten Military Academy postgraduate hoops star is hauling in every major college basketball national player of the year award.

Mason, a 5-foot-11 point guard from Petersburg who recently finished his senior year at the University of Kansas, has snagged a total of nine national player of the year awards over the last couple weeks. Mason was handed the prestigious James A. Naismith Trophy, given annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to the nation’s most outstanding men’s college basketball player, on Sunday afternoon near the site of the Final Four in Phoenix.

Mason, who led MMA’s postgraduate basketball team to its only No. 1 national ranking during the 2012-13 season, is also a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award and the Bob Cousy Award (given to the nation’s top point guard). Both will be announced Friday.

“Obviously we’re all proud of him,” said Chad Myers, Mason’s former coach at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, on Wednesday. “Now that he’s got a chance to win national player of the year in every possible award, it’s just almost unbelievable. It’s almost, like, shocking. I don’t know what the best word is to say.

“He worked extremely hard. He put in the time, he deserved it, but it’s almost like it’s one of those things (where) you wanna wake up and say is it really true?”

In addition to the Naismith Trophy, Mason was also recently awarded the Oscar Robertson Trophy – given by the United States Basketball Writers Association – and was named men’s college basketball player of the year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (also on Sunday in Phoenix), the Associated Press, Sporting News, USA Today, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and Bleacher Report.

“He’s obviously very thankful. I think he realizes how special it is and where he came from, obviously having a chance to do this,” said Myers, who added that he spent time with Mason in Phoenix this past weekend at the two award banquets.

“As a coach it’s rewarding to see him kind of grow up, not only as a player but as an adult and the different things he’s got in life right now – he’s gotta go accept awards and go to banquets and hopefully get a chance to get drafted and all that kind of stuff. It’s exciting. But I thought he did a good job speaking (at the banquets). He handled himself great, which he’s done pretty much all four years he’s been there.”

As a senior at Kansas this past winter, Mason, named the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year last month, led the conference in scoring (20.9 points per game) and ranked fourth in the league in assists (5.2 per game), becoming the first player in Big 12 history to average over 20 points and five assists in the same season. He also ranked first in the conference in 3-point shooting percentage (47.1).

In four NCAA tournament games last month Mason averaged 22.3 points, six assists and 4.5 rebounds per contest. He ended his final college game with 21 points in the Jayhawks’ 74-60 loss to Oregon in the Sweet 16 on March 25.

Mason finished his collegiate career ranked sixth in KU history in total points (1,885) and total assists (576), eighth in 3-point field goals made (185) and 13th in steals (165).

Mason, who attended Petersburg High School before prepping a year at Massanutten Military Academy, originally had committed to Towson before re-opening his recruitment during his time in Woodstock. Myers said the path Mason had to take to reach the heights he did at Kansas makes the accomplishments more special.

“I think it just shows the character and the toughness about the kid,” Myers said. “I mean Frank was one of our hardest workers, probably the best competitor I’ve ever been around in basketball, and I’ve been fortunate enough to coach guys that went to the NBA and everywhere else. But he was the toughest. He wanted to win more than anything. Even throughout the run with him having a chance to win these awards, he says ‘if I could win a national title that would mean the most.’ That’s what kind of made him, I think, the person and the player he is, is he’s about the right stuff. He wants to win, he competes and just his competitive nature, willing guys to win.”

Myers said Mason will return to Massanutten Military Academy for a jersey retirement ceremony on April 21.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com

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