Norm Roberts sat in Anthony Mason Jr.’s Memphis home trying to convince him that St. John’s was the right school for him.
In the middle of the room was a speaker phone, through which the versatile and athletic player’s famous father, former Knick Anthony Mason, was listening. But Roberts did not get any extra help from the elder Mason – his high school teammate at Springfield Gardens High School in Queens.
“He (Mason Sr.) started the meeting off with, ‘Coach, I know you and everything, but this has no factor on my son. My son is going to decide what he wants,'” Roberts said. “And he decided to come here.”
Mason Jr., who said he appreciated his mom and dad’s support, chose St. John’s for a number of reasons.
“The coaching staff, the environment, the teams, and knowing it’s a program on the rise,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of it.”
His dad did tell him about what to expect if he made the decision to play in New York, a place he played in as a Knick from 1992 to 1995.
“The good things were probably playing at the Garden, being at St. John’s. The history of St. John’s. You know it’s a good team,” Mason Jr. said. “Some of the bad things were living up to the name, but those sorts of things I really didn’t think about because I just play hard and do what I have to do.”
Mason’s goal for the season: bring St. John’s back to where it was.
They are the comments of a player looking to leave his mark, something his dad has done.
Mason, whose dad was known for having words shaved in the side of his head, already has an “M” for Mase cut into his right eyebrow.
When he goes to the barber, it may take a razor to make that type of impression, but Mason has all the skill needed to etch his name into the St. John’s history books.
“He brings perimeter shooting,” Roberts said. “I think he brings savvy to the game. He’s got very good basketball I.Q., and I think he brings length and athletic ability. He can play in different spots. He’s so long. He can be a really, really terrific defender.”
Mason’s 6-foot-7, 203-pound frame and his quickness will allow St. John’s and Roberts to play in different ways, with size or with quickness.
When Roberts decides to choose the latter, Mason will cause mismatches on the perimeter.
“It gives me more versatile things to do because most of the time I am going to have a big guard on me,” Mason said. “I’m probably quicker than him so it’s easier for me to get to the basket and in the lane than me facing up against a 7-foot-3 Big Beast of the East and trying to do spin moves.”
Mason averaged 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists as a senior at Fairley High School in Memphis.
The all-state selection was rated a top-25 prospect at small forward by several recruiting publications.
“[He has an] ability to see the open man,” Roberts said. “His dad was a very good passer. He’s a lot like his dad physically built because he’s very thin. He probably had a better body than his dad did coming out of high school.”
The lanky freshman is close with his teammates, values their advice and enjoys this relationship with his head coach.
“He’s not one of those coaches that sits on the side and tells you do this, do this,” said Mason. “He was a point guard, so he will come out there and show you. He has his laces strapped up like he’s going to play.”
But Mason wants to be known for more than his talent on the court. He was a member of the National Honor Society in high school and a hard worker in the classroom.
“I’ve been known for being a good student and a good athlete,” said Mason, who may look to major in business and get into real estate. “My mom, she wanted me to be a good student as well as a good player.”
With all his accomplishments, his ability and his potential, Mason expects the huge hype to surround him as he begins his career in the same city where his dad made his name.
Mason says the comparisons to his father and the pressure to live up to his legacy push him to be a better player.
“I think it’s high expectations for any kid whose father was in the NBA, especially as long as my pops did,” Mason said. “Because the father is good so you think the son is real good.”
This time, they could very well be right.