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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The best description of Frank Mason’s demeanor is really no description at all.
Mount Rushmore has more range of emotion. A block of wood is more expressive. Any guesses as to what the Kansas guard is thinking at any given moment start and end with his blank countenance.
“He’d be good in a Senate Judiciary Committee [hearing],” joked KU radio analyst Greg Gurley. “He’d be a good poker player.”
Gurley isn’t the only one who has noticed the heart of the Jayhawks is a Human Flat Line.
“Funny you said that said,” Purdue guard P.J. Thompson said, “because he always seems to have the same face.”
Happy? Sad? Bored? Mason could be all three at once. He’ll continue not to let anyone know know heading into Thursday night’s Midwest Regional semifinal against Purdue.
“I hear about it a lot,” Mason said. “That’s just how I am. … Nothing surprises me.”
One national player of the year favorite in the KU-Purdue game has his own nickname and website. That would be Purdue post Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan. Check him out at Biggie4NPOY.com.
Meanwhile, KU’s crafty assassin is merely the first player in the Big 12’s 21-year history to average 20 points and five assists. That seems like a modest stat but it’s an indication of a player with a strong back. That is, Mason carries the Jayhawks with a dutiful point guard’s responsibility to distribute, lead and score.
Teammate Josh Jackson is flashier but Mason is more consistent, the rock of Lawrence. Boil it down to this: Mason is typically throwing those alley oop passes that Jackson converts with flair.
“I’ve never met anybody like Frank,” Jackson said. “We always look to him for so many things, things that he doesn’t even notice.
“When things happen we look at him and see how he reacts to it. In the game, we try to read him. When he’s making tough plays, he makes us play tough. We feed off him.”
But being Blank Frank is almost as a much a part of his game as his handle and shot.
“It is scary but it’s good for him because nobody knows what he’s doing,” teammate Svi Mykhailiuk said.
Mason’s bulldog 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame is where body language comes to die. The senior guard does play inspired. There aren’t many guards his size who can slash to the basketball so consistently.
Mason just doesn’t always look like he’s inspired.
“I think Frank Mason is fearless,” said Thompson who no doubt will be matched up with Mason at times. “He wins. He’s always been a winner as long as I’ve seen. I think he’s a really confident guy who steps on the court and thinks he’s the best player on the court.”
This story started with Mason being a three-star prospect out of Petersburg, Virginia signing with Towson State. But a failed class caused him to detour to a prep school for a year.
KU assistant Kurtis Townsend saw Mason at a Las Vegas AAU showcase. Townsend couldn’t believe more schools weren’t on him.
Mason eventually became an old-fashioned four-year player who improved steadily. A 33 percent 3-point shooter as a freshman, Mason improved to lead the Big 12 in that category -- 47 percent as a senior.
Even in blowouts, he doesn’t often leave the court. Mason averages more than 36 minutes.
On senior night, coach Bill Self called him, “the best guard I’ve ever coached.”
There are handful of Mason Moments that serve as an intro to his national player of the candidacy.
- In the season opening loss to Indiana, he scored the last 11 points in regulation to force the game to overtime.
- With 1.2 seconds left against Duke at Madison Square Garden, Mason’s pull-up jumper beat the Blue Devils 77-75.
- Down by nine at halftime at Oklahoma in January, Mason scored 18 of his 26 in the first eight minutes of the second half of an eventual 81-70 win.
- Mason scored 13 of his 21 in the second half of an epic comeback win against Kentucky on Jan. 28.
- He scored the final six points in regulation of an eventual overtime loss to Iowa State in February. Mason finished with a career-high 32.
- With Mason running the show, Kansas has lost only three of its last 52 games in regulation.
“I knew I was always better than Towson,” he said.
In KU’s final regular-season game, Self challenged Mason to guard Oklahoma State star Juwan Evans, according to this insightful Topeka Capital Journal profile.
“Man, I can guard anybody,” Mason shot back at his coach. “I’ll go to the NBA and I’ll guard LeBron right now.”
Mason then went out and fell just short of a triple-double -- 27 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists.
That’s as boastful as it gets with Mason. whose size might keep him out of the NBA’s first round but won’t keep him from contributing for some lucky team.
But that stone-cold presence?
“The guy has been here four years,” Gurley said. “I’ve probably had -- I don’t know -- probably three conversations with him. Some guys are just different.
“He’s for sure a lead-by-example guy. You just know when you need something he’s going to figure it out.”
A photo of Mason going face-to-face with Michigan State’s Miles Bridges made the social media rounds this week.
Mason gave up eight inches to the 6-foot-7 Bridges, but he gave up no ground.
“The message that I got from the picture is the message I’ve always been getting from Frank,” Jackson said. “He’s a small guy but he’s not going to back down from anybody. No matter who you are, how big you are.”
That senior night last month proved Mason is no cyborg. His 5-year old son Amari was in the stands. In his farewell speech, Mason shed a tear in front of the adoring Allen Fieldhouse masses. Quite a few, as a matter of fact.
“If I had the chance to play four more years here,” Mason told the crowd, “I swear I would.”