Mason Brings Storm Into New Heights

Two years ago, Anthony Mason, Jr. added a fresh face and form to the 2005-06 season along with other newcomers Ricky Torres and Tomas Jasiulionis. Upon entering his freshmen year, fans had high hopes for the young man from Memphis, Tennessee to bring the men’s basketball program back to prominence. Now, into his junior season, Mason has the entire St. John’s community looking to him for leadership.

Of course, one would think Mason, Jr.’s life would parallel that of his father, Mason, Sr., who entered the draft in 1988 after he left Tennessee. Over the past two years, Mason Jr.’s own rapid development as a player has made fans curious about his future career moves and if the NBA is on his mind. But Mason says that he is not thinking that far ahead.

“If it’s coming, then it comes- that’s my goal, that’s where I want to end up,” Mason said. “But if they’re looking, then that’s good for me because they’re looking at the program, but I ain’t out to jump into the league next year.”

Mason is ready for the upcoming season– being a “leader on the court, taking charge, taking more shots, and giving [his] team what they need to succeed.”

Mason has the tools to make him an all around phenomenal player on both sides of the floor. His size and wingspan enable him to pressure his man effectively on defense, while his quickness and agility allow him to get inside his man to pull up for a mid-range jumper or a three. Still, Mason can take it to the hole and send the media on a photo-flashing frenzy with brazen dunks worthy of a SLAM magazine “Slam-a-da-month” feature.

“I think Mason has been given some really great God-given gifts of length, great coordination, the ability to shoot, speed and athleticism,” Coach Norm Roberts said of Mason’s seemingly innate abilities. “A lot of times you get a guy that’s very fast, but not very tall, you get a guy whose very tall, but not very fast or he’s not very agile- he’s got all those things.”

Mason, Jr. has been improving upon his game ever since he set foot on the St. John’s hardwood and is taking on a new challenge for the upcoming season with the graduation of veterans: big man Lamont Hamilton and play-maker Daryll Hill. Along with senior point guard Eugene Lawrence, Mason will be looked to for guidance and support by the new seven man class joining the Red Storm family in the fall.

“I’ve been in here three years coming up now [and] I’ve learned the ropes,” Mason said. “My leaders taught me before [and] their teachings showed me how to lead young kids to be a better player, student, and whatever they want to be in life.”

Mason experienced a leadership role when he played without the veterans against Providence in the last game of the 2006-07 season and again against Marquette in the Big East championship tournament. Despite the absence of Hamilton and Hill, Mason scored 17 and 19 points, respectively. He averaged 11.9 points and 5.9 rebounds on the season.

But is Mason ready for the leadership role?
“We need him to, I think he wants to and I think he’s ready to,” said Roberts. “So, we are going to need him to step up and I think he did a good job of that in the end of last year and he needs to start that from day one this year.”

Mason is looking forward to the upcoming season and playing alongside his new teammates. He seems anxious as to what will come out of the program.

“We got new blood,” Mason said. “The young guys are going to get at it, night in and night out.”

The recruiting class of seven for the 2007-08 season is being touted as the best group of recruits under the Roberts era. The class includes local standouts Malik Boothe, a pass first guard with quickness and toughness; Justin Burrell who was ranked among the top 20 power forward prospects in the nation; and wingman Mike Cavataio who brings a great mid-range game and the ability to create his own shot. Prep school stars Dele Coker, a big man who will bring a very strong inside presence, and Paris Horne, another addition to the frontcourt who can slash to the basket, also hope to make their presence felt.

In May, Roberts signed Sean Evans and D.J. Kennedy to wrap-up the seven-man class. Kennedy can play at the point and 2-guard positions, as well as the small forward slot. Evans is going to aide in versatility, answering the lack of Rob Thomas, who injured his knee during practice in March.

“By far, I think it’s probably the most talented recruiting class we brought in [and] we pretty much attacked all positions on the floor,” Roberts said. “Obviously, it’s a big recruiting class with seven coming in, but we tried to really increase our talent, our depth, our athleticism, our creativity, and our ability to score.”
Mason will have his hands full this upcoming season, but he may be just what the Johnnies need to turn the corner back to prominence.