2017 Naismith Trophy goes to Frank Mason III

Shay Wildeboor, Editor
Jayhawk Slant
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For Frank Mason III, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound point guard from Petersburg, Va., his senior year at the University of Kansas didn’t end as he envisioned. From the moment he took the court for KU’s first practice of the season, finishing the year in Phoenix, Ariz., site of this year’s Final Four, was the driving force behind his remarkable season.

While Mason led Kansas to its 13th-straight Big 12 regular season championship, a 31-5 record and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, his dream of playing in the Final Four was swept away by the Oregon Ducks in the Elite Eight.

Still, Mason had an unbelievably remarkable year for Kansas, and because of his performance on the hardwood, there's no doubt that his jersey will one-day hang from the rafters inside Allen Fieldhouse.

The 2017 Big 12 Player of the Year, Mason averaged 20.9 points per game and was the first Kansas player to lead the Big 12 in scoring since 2004-05. He also led the conference in three-point field goal percentage (.490) and was fourth in assists (5.2).

This past season, Mason became the first player in Big 12 and Kansas history to average 20 points and five assists per game. For his career, Mason ranks sixth on KU’s career-scoring list at 1,885 and sixth in career assists at 576.

Mason is the only player in Kansas history to rank that high in both career points and assists.

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"Dr. Naismith invented the game of basketball and we walk by his original rules every day in Allen Fieldhouse,” said Mason. “He was Kansas' first coach so winning this award with his name on it and playing at Kansas brings this full circle. There is no way I could have won the Naismith Trophy without great coaches, like coach (Bill) Self, the rest of the staff and great teammates.

“We accomplished a lot this season and this would not have been won without my teammates and coaches,” he added.

In winning the Naismith College Player of the Year award, Mason joins Danny Manning as the only two Naismith Trophy recipients from the University of Kansas. He also becomes the fifth Big 12 recipient, following Buddy Hield (OU, 2016), Blake Griffin (OU, 2009), Kevin Durant (UT, 2007) and T.J. Ford (UT, 2003).

Mason, on Sunday afternoon, edged out fellow finalists Lonzo Ball (UCLA), Josh Hart (Villanova) and Caleb Swanigan (Purdue) to capture the Naismith Trophy.

“Frank has had a terrific four years at Kansas, one in which he has become better and matured each year, culminating with the best season of any player have that I've coached and he's deserving of the Naismith Trophy," Kansas head coach Bill Self said. "He was the leader, the personality and the most consistent performer on a very good team, averaging close to 21 points and more than five assists per game.

“More importantly, Frank basically led us through every tough moment, which is what separates him from so many,” he added.

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In all, Mason has been awarded the Naismith Trophy, the USBWA Oscar Robertson Trophy, the Associated Press Player of the Year, the Sporting News Player of the Year, the CBS Sports Player of the year, the USA Today Player of the Year, the Bleacher Report Player of the Year and the NBC Sports Player of the Year.

Mason is still in the running for three more major awards, including the Wooden Award. The NABC Player of the Year will be announced later today, while the Bob Cousy Award for Point Guard of the Year will be awarded on April 7 as will the Wooden Award.

Mason, in accepting his most recent Player of the Year award, kept his acceptance speech short and sweet.

“Wow, I’m really nervous right now,” said Mason. “What an incredible honor for me and my family. I just want to thank my amazing coaches, my mom and dad for being here. I want to thank my teammates. Without them guys, I wouldn't be here today. Thanks, everyone who voted for me."

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