St. John's basketball 2008 Year In Review Part XI: Anthony Mason

Part 0: Opening | Part I: Team stats | Part II: Boothe | Part III: Burrell | Part IV: Cavataio | Part V: Dele Coker | Part VI: Sean Evans | Part VII: Paris Horne | Part VIII: Tomas Jasiulionis | Part IX: DJ Kennedy | Part X: Eugene Lawrence

Anthony Mason Jr.

(stats taken from BigEast.org, Statsheet, Ken Pomeroy's Basketball Prospectus, and my own calculations)

Mason to the hoop2007-2008: Junior
Position: Forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 209 lbs
Age: 21 (01/25/1987)
Home: Memphis, TN

Anthony Mason 2007-2008 Highs

High Points 29 (Lou, Pitt)
High Assists 6 (Dep)
High Rebounds 9 (Nova, Lou, U Conn)
High Minutes 40 (Lou)
High Steals 3 (G'Town, U Conn)
High FT Att 6 (Marq, 5 made)
High 3P Att 11 (Lou, 7 made)
High FG Att 21 (Lou, 10 made)
High FG% 70.6% (Pitt)
Low FG% (+10 Att) 18.2% (Duke)
High Turnovers 5 (Dep)

When he went down for the third time last season with a sprained left ankle, Anthony Mason Jr. of St. John's did have that one moment when he asked, "Why me? Why now?"

Anthony Mason Jr. was one of St. Johns’ tri-captains, along with Tomas Jasuilionis and Eugene Lawrence. He was the leading returning scorer, and moreover, the most talented non-freshman on the roster. So it was a little creepy when Mase couldn’t practice with an ankle injury, but would be ready for the exhibition. Then when he missed the exhibition game, but would be ready for the opener. Then he wasn’t ready for the opener, or the next two games. Then he came back for LIU… and got hurt again on the same ankle, missing the debacle in Coral Gables (it almost rhymes if you pronounce debacle wrong). Then there were more injury filled minutes at the barely-covered by the news Rainbow Classic, and finally a start against Virginia Tech… which is the game where Mason didn’t grab a single rebound. In 35 minutes.

BUT WAIT! The ankle returns at South Florida! At the end of an awesome comeback in the first half! And Mase is out for three more games. That’s a total of 8 games missed. How does one evaluate the changes in a player’s game when they miss a quarter of the season, and are tentative for other games?

Well, here are some things we know about Mase, after the jump:

Man, does he love to shoot. He didn’t reach double digits in shots taken in 5 games, two being games he was injured in (LIU and South Florida). Mason shot 15 or more field goal attempts 8 times. Mason dunking on Duke ZoubekHe put up 12.6 shots per game overall, and 14 shots per game in conference play. My fiancée used to ask me why the announcers were always saying the name Anthony Mason Jr. all the time? Because he’s always shooting, hon. Watching him sometimes brings the phrase "no conscience" to mind; he spent some time, especially early in conference season, trying to play the hero, pounding the ball into the hardwood, looking for his shot attempts or to throw his man off balance for the jump shot.

Mason's shot, and shooting percentage, though… Just because someone's a volume shooter doesn't mean that they're an efficient scorer. His 2 point shooting could use a few more easy shots; watching him take contested jumpers after trying all of his isolation moves, that’s hard to watch. Mason’s 3-point percentage actually improved in conference, as his free throw rate and free throw percentage went down. I’d like to think the Mase we saw at the end of the year is the truth of Mason, the nearly 16-point per game scorer + streak shooter. But that streakiness might come from what seems to be an inconsistent shooting motion (he was flicking with more wrist at the end of the year), which never bodes well for a shooter. 2-11 at Duke, 3-12 against Georgetown, 5-18 at U Conn, 4-14 against DePaul… those make everyone afraid to watch Mason shoot.

He takes up a sick percentage of the Red Storm possessions. And he often takes his shots in isolation, while players like Kennedy and Burrell look on, trying to figure out if they should move, and where. There were nights where Mason’s points kept the team in the game, and I won’t begrudge an athlete who sees his team struggling and tries to score. Mase had some solid outings, like his 5-7 3 point shooting barrage against Seton Hall; or 7-11 from outside against Louisville to make that game look somewhat competitive. But Kennedy and Wright both seemed to struggle to find their place on the court with Anthony Mason dominating the ball.

His defense… well… I can’t say much good about his D – he gambles too much and doesn’t get much result, though his steal rate is a little higher than the previous two years. Interestingly enough, he fouled out of the finale against West Virginia. Did that mean he was trying harder at good position defense instead of steals?

He’s different when he’s healthier. I don’t know if being a primary scorer takes from his sense of rebounding, but his boarding was inconsistent. But the way he attacked the basket and showed off that athleticism was naaaasty. Dropping down hammer dunks? I can get with that. And when he can drive against his opponent, he showed an ability to pass the rock from his drive. He needs to do that more, though he’s a poor, poor ballhandler. If the rest of the team can hang on to the ball or force turnovers more regularly, I can live with Mase’s questionable handle. His turnover rate has been about the same for all three of his years in Queens, and unless the offense changes, that turnover percentage is not going to change.

Anthony Mason dunk vs CincinnatiHe’d probably be better in transition. Mase can run. He is a true above the rim athlete. The Red Storm team doesn’t always run (but I expect they’ll have to with the athletes on the court next year). Mase can catch an alley or take a back door opportunity and convert. The team has to get to know each other to the point where they try these plays more in games. And Mase has to pass to his teammates, trust in his teammates.

Anthony Mason Jr. has a chance to put up big numbers. And for all those who think he can’t be in the NBA, I’d say that when healthy, he has the height and athleticism to get GMs very excited. When they realize he don’t play defense like his daddy… but Mase can get off his shot and be a player in transition.

For any pro prospects, he’s going to have to learn how to dribble a little (NOT A OVERDRIBBLE LOT), and if he can make some passing plays, he can cover up his underwhelming-to-passable shooting percentages on the college level. Personally, when I see someone with that kind of athleticism, I like to see them go to the free throw line, but that’s just me.

Next year, with the team (still) in flux, Mase has a chance to really shine as a scorer. I hope he does; but even with his scoring, a lot has to go well offensively and defensively for St. John’s to see post season action after the Big East tournament. For now, Mase better take care of that ankle. A quote from Coach Norm Roberts from the aforementioned NY Post article:

When he can return to the court, Roberts said they will work with Mason on moving without the ball, coming off screens, and being ready to shoot as soon as he gets the ball.

"He can be a Rip Hamilton-type player," said Roberts. "The tough thing for Anthony is that since he's been at St. John's he hasn't been able to practice in the spring because he was rehabbing injuries. That's why his summer is going to be very important for him."

I thought last summer was important.

Or the summer before.

Rip Hamilton? That’s some high cotton comparison. I hope he can be three quarters of that. Mase has gained a little muscle every year. A little more would do him right. And seeing him coming off of screens for shots would be a welcome change, as it would involve a) screens and b) non-isolation, team-based plays. This would speed up the offense, and give everyone a role in possessions; too often last year’s scoring attack looked like the upperclassmen taking shots and the underclassmen wondering why they never get to see that orange composite leather ball they’d grown so accustomed to.

All Conf
Minutes Per Game 30.4 32.7
Effective FG Pct 48.7% 50.0%
FG Pct 42.1% 42.5%
3pt FG Pct 38.1% 41.0%
FT Pct 66.7% 63.2%
FT Rate 19.4% 17.9%
Points Per Game 14 15.7
Rebounds Per Game 4.4 5.1
Off Rebs Per Game 1.4 1.7
Def Rebs Per Game 3 3.4
Assists Per Game 2.3 2.3
Steals Per Game 1 1
Turnovers Per Game 2.7 2.9
Assist-Turnover Ratio 0.9 0.8
Blocks Per Game 0.3 0.3
Fouls Per Game 1.9 1.9

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