Preseason Profiles: Anthony Mason, Jr.

With his freshman year under his belt, Anthony Mason Jr. is poised to make major strides this season. The 6-7 sophomore forward from Memphis, Tenn. has become stronger during the off-season.

Mason is coming off a season in which he averaged 8.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in 28 minutes, but shot just 41 percent from the field. Perhaps for the first time since Norm Roberts became the head coach of the team in 2004, there are great expectations of the St. John’s University men’s basketball program, and rightfully so.

Mason expressed his outlook of this year’s season. “Competing, playing hard this year, going to the Big East tournament,” Mason said. “And then my other expectation is to make it to the NCAA tournament.”

Eugene Lawrence, team captain and junior point guard, sees the improvements Mason has made.

“He got better during the off-season, we worked out together a lot and he improved his range and he improved his game off the dribble,” Lawrence said. “He got stronger too, as a player. He’s been able to bang down low in the post more, so that helps him too in his game.”

Coach Roberts also foresees great achievements to be made by Mason.

“I expect them all to improve, but Anthony Mason, Jr. is much more aggressive,” Roberts said. “He wants to score every time the ball touches his hands. Sometimes I’ve got to tell him to slow down, but he wants to score the ball. He’s much more physical. He’s stronger than he was and I think he might have grown an inch so he’s a little bit longer than what he was.”

Mason is the son of Anthony Mason, Sr., who spent 13 seasons in the NBA, including five with the New York Knicks (1991-1996). When Mason, Jr. was younger, watching his father play influenced him to try to play in the NBA. His father and mother’s advice to him is to “keep my head in the right place, don’t get overwhelmed with anything.”
While father and son are about the same height, Mason, Jr’s. lean frame and game deviate from that of his father’s.

“There is no comparison,” Roberts said. “His dad was an inside player. They are totally different players. He is a perimeter player, his dad was a post player. Probably the one comparison you can have is they both have a nose for the ball.”

Roberts has also taught Mason some things during the forward’s short tenure at St. John’s.

“Team, family, [they] stand together through the rough times,” Mason said. “We had a couple rough times going through the year last year, and he kept us together.”
Roberts said that, aside from basketball, Mason has grown in other aspects as well.

“I think he matured a lot, as far as dealing with media, dealing with practice,” Roberts said. “He comes into practice now with a better focus, ready to go. I think he knows the importance of practice, I think he knows the importance of repetition, all those things, and those are things that he wouldn’t know as a freshman. I think he has all the abilities to be a leader on our team, to be a main focus for our team.”

Senior point guard Daryll Hill is excited about playing with a talent like Mason. “He runs the floor, and that really puts pressure on the other team, so it’s great to have him on our team,” he said.

With Hill coming back from a knee injury that cost him 11 games last season and with a highly-touted recruiting class, Mason and the Red Storm are in the best position as they have been in years to make some noise in the Big East.

“We try to get people to understand that [Mason] was a freshman last year,” Roberts said. “You can’t ask a freshman to come in here and be very, very aggressive. I think he has adjusted. So I think we’re going to see a lot more success out of him.”