KU notebook: National player of the year Frank Mason to graduate on Sunday

By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

Frank Mason needed overtime — as in a year at Massanutten Military Academy — to earn enough credits in core courses to graduate high school.

His college career faced no such roadblocks.

“He was two classes shy after 3  12 years. How many students go four years of college only needing two classes to graduate? He needed two classes (second semester) to graduate, all because of loading up in the summer,” Kansas coach Bill Self said proudly, referring to the 5-foot-11 senior point guard from Petersburg, Va., who will graduate from KU with a degree in liberal arts and sciences on Sunday.

Self’s players normally attend a pair of sessions of summer school each year to help ease the load a bit during during the long basketball season that encompasses both semesters.


Self, who attended a batch of postseason awards ceremonies in which Mason received various trophies en route to consensus national player of the year honors, will be outside Memorial Stadium on Sunday to cheer Mason as he makes the traditional walk down Campanile Hill as part of KU’s commencement.

Mason’s current teammate, Dwight Coleby, and former KU forward Drew Gooden, also will participate in KU commencement exercises. Gooden and Coleby will graduate with degrees in communication studies.

“Frank is a very strong-willed young man. To see how serious he became about school and responsibility … he came from a situation where he wasn’t the best student. To see how he’s matured and improved in all areas has been so fun to watch,” Self said.

Mason, who attended Petersburg High four years before going to Massanutten, says he’s pleased he was able to graduate college in four years.

“In high school I made a lot of bad decisions, hung around with the wrong group of guys,” Mason said. “Now I tell kids, ‘Make the right decisions. Surround yourself by a positive group of guys. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t be. Always believe in yourself. Stay focused in school and you will have a good future.’ What I learned is schoolwork has to come first,” Mason added.

Mason says graduation day will be bittersweet.

“It’s going to be a great time,” he said, acknowledging he’ll miss college life.

“If there was a way I could do it I’d try my hardest to make it happen,” he added of staying at KU four more years. “I mean that when I say it. I’ll remember this forever.”

Self thinks Mason’s love of KU can serve him well in the future.

“A lot of people feel that way about their school. Certainly Frank feels that way about this one. This place helped change his life. I think he will have great motivation moving forward,” Self said. “He’s an amazing kid.”


KU target Barrett may reclassify

Canadian sensation R.J. Barrett, a 6-foot-6 sophomore wing from Florida’s Montverde Academy who has KU on his list of prospective schools, exploded for 41 points and 13 rebounds in UPlay Canada’s 99-75 win over Team United (N.C.) on Saturday at a Nike EYBL event in Atlanta.

That followed Friday night’s triple-double by Barrett. He had 29 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in an 85-77 loss to Portland BC.

Because of all this success, the No. 1-ranked player in the recruiting class of 2019 according to Rivals.com is considering reclassifying to the class of 2018. Barrett — who has Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, Duke, Indiana and many others on his early list of schools —would likely fall to No. 3 in the class of 2018 behind fellow KU targets Marvin Bagley and Zion Williamson.

“I’m a competitor. I know all about Marvin and he’s a great player, but I’m a worker. I like the idea of working back to the top. That’s attractive to me,” Barrett told USA Today on Saturday.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do as far as reclassifying or not. I’m going to make that decision at the end of the summer after I see how I play and how things go. I want to make the best decision so I’m not going to rush things.

“If I was going to reclassify it would be because of the challenge,” Barrett added. “That’s why I came to Montverde. That’s why I train the way I do. That’s why I do everything. I’m always ready to work. If I reclassified I’d be working to get back to the top.”

Canada’s Shittu considers KU

KU is recruiting another Canadian in Simisola Shittu, a 6-9, 220-pound senior-to-be from Vermont Academy in Saxton River, Vt. He is ranked No. 10 in the recruiting class of 2018 by Rivals.com.

Shittu, who is from Burlington, Ontario, scored 34 points on 14-of-22 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds in CIA Bounce’s 96-93 win over Nike Team Florida on Friday in Atlanta. He had 20 points and four boards in Saturday’s 79-67 loss to Bradley Beal Elite. Shittu averaged 21.5 points and 10.3 rebounds through the first 11 games of the spring’s Nike EYBL circuit.

Shittu is being recruited by KU, Kentucky, Duke, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Oregon, Vanderbilt, UCLA and others.

“There’s not a school that is really standing out to me yet,” Shittu told Rivals.com. “I’m just talking to a lot of schools and seeing what happens.”

Eighth grader emerges

Eighth-grade phenom Zion Harmon of Boo Williams (Va.) AAU, has become one of the biggest stories on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring.

Harmon, a 5-11 point guard, scored 20 points with four assists and four rebounds in Saturday’s 70-59 EYBL victory over Boston Amateur Basketball Club. He was 3 of 4 on threes and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. He had 34 points and six assists in a recent win over Tennessee’s Team Penny.

All this has come after he led Bowling Green (Ky.) High School to a state championship last season. He scored 18 points when Bowling Green beat Cooper 67-56 in the state final in front of 11,346 fans at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. Middle school students are allowed to play varsity high school hoops in Kentucky.

“A lot of times I can tell they (AAU opponents) treat me like the young boy,” Harmon told USA Today. “I think guys look at me like they should be able to dominate me because I’m younger, but my goal is just like any other player. I want to dominate. There are a lot who still underestimate me because of my age. I don’t mind that as long as I change their minds by the end of the game.”

USA Today says Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Tennessee have shown early interest in the player who likely will be recruited by all the blue bloods before long.

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