It's not often that a player from Niagara makes news when he announces his transfer, but Niagara has never seen a player like Antoine Mason. As the nation's second-leading scorer last year behind Creighton's Doug McDermott, Mason averaged 25.6 points per game and put up incredible numbers for a very bad basketball team.
Niagara went 7-26 in 2013-14, but their entire offense ran around Mason. He wasn't all that efficient — finishing with a solid, but not great 47.9 percent effective field goal percentage — but he did almost everything for the Purple Eagles. He was ninth nationally in percentage of available minutes played (94.1 percent), 31st in usage and 21st in shot percentage, according to KenPom. He was also a very good ball-handler and tremendous at drawing fouls — he drew eight (!!!) per 40 minutes to rank sixth nationally.
Mason had to be the go-to player for Niagara last year, since the team was in its first year under new coach Chris Casey and had to replace some of its best players, who elected to transfer. But it also helped Mason get noticed. The New York Times ran a story on Mason and his father, former Knicks star Anthony Mason, in February.
"My confidence is sky-high; I feel I am the best scorer in the nation," said Antoine, who is dueling Doug McDermott (26 points a game), a senior forward at Creighton, for that honor. "I just want to put my best effort out every game."
Photo credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports
In some ways, it seems Mason is following in his father's footsteps. The elder Mason also went to a small school (Tennessee State) and took a while to get noticed by NBA teams. He also set the Knicks' single-season minutes record in 1995-96, so he's like his son in that way. But Antoine is a 6-foot-3 guard, not a forward, and his ability to handle the ball and attack the rim — along with his clear relentlessness — will be what gets him a spot in the NBA if he earns it. According to the Times, his father has coached him since he was young.
Antoine is heavily motivated by his father, who is as much a force in his son's life as he was in the frontcourt when he helped the Knicks reach the N.B.A. finals against the Houston Rockets in 1994. When Antoine excelled for New Rochelle High School in New York, his father humbled him by taking him to Rucker Park in Harlem and exposing him to the rough-and-tumble style of basketball there.
Anthony Mason, who lives in New Rochelle and works in insurance, attends almost all of his son's games. He invariably briefs him before the second half on what needs to improve.
Wherever he ends up, Mason will be eligible to play immediately for one year, since he's graduated from Niagara. The development of his new role — likely at a major conference team — will be fascinating to watch.