Niagara Gazette — Twice a freshman, Antoine Mason has used that experience to soar over a sophomore slump of any sort.
The son of former NBA all-star Anthony Mason made his presence known on Monteagle Ridge seconds into his very first game, sinking a 3-pointer off the opening tip and high-stepping back down the court while pointing at his grinning coach, Joe Mihalich.
Mason scored 50 points in his first three games for Niagara, setting an early pace in the unwinnable race to break Calvin Murphy's all-time scoring mark (2,548 points). But a stress fracture was soon found in his foot, and Mason wound up taking a medical redshirt while the Purple Eagles bricked their way to a 9-23 record.
Last season, the 6-3 guard scored 15.1 points per game, the third-highest freshman average in Niagara history, and was named to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference all-rookie team. But he also shot 38 percent from the field and had more turnovers than assists, developing the reputation as an inefficient gunner on a 14-win team.
Of course, the Purple Eagles' all-time scoring list is littered with players who were perceived that way early in their careers, including the great Murphy. The fast-paced, free-shooting style Mihalich encourages lends itself to the type of player who believes he can score from anywhere on the floor, on every possession.
Mihalich knew Mason would need to improve his shot selection and play within the offense more for the Purple Eagles to thrive. Mason returned to campus in the summer with the same knowledge, having studied video of every game with his father.
"A lot of immature stuff," was what Mason saw. "Being a freshman, there are going to be a lot of immature shots, rushed shots, turnovers that you are not supposed to make. I watched it, analyzed it and tried to correct it and tried to correct it. I let the game come to me more, slow it down, trust my teammates."