Frank Mason III of Petersburg is semifinalist for coveted Naismith Award

Fred Jeter | 3/10/2017, 7:20 p.m.
The University of Kansas’ Frank Mason III is flirting with college basketball’s highest individual honor — and his fans can ...

The University of Kansas’ Frank Mason III is flirting with college basketball’s highest individual honor — and his fans can have a voice in the final decision.

Mason, who graduated from Petersburg High School in 2012, is one of 10 semifinalists for the coveted James A. Naismith Trophy awarded to college basketball’s most outstanding player.

Four finalists will be announced Sunday, March 19.

The winner will be announced April 2 in Glendale, Ariz., coinciding with the NCAA Final Four.

Mason, a 22-year-old senior point guard, is likely to still be in action that weekend at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Kansas Jayhawks began this week 27-3 and ranked No. 1 nationally.

Here’s how Mason’s admirers can get into the action:

Naismith Trophy balloting is conducted by a national voting academy. However, from Monday, March 20, through Friday, March 31, fans also can vote online at naismithtrophy.com/vote. Fans’ votes will count 5 percent of the total.

Mason, wearing No. 0 jersey, has been brilliant this season, averaging 20.3 points and 4.6 assists per game, while hitting 50 percent of his 3-point shots and 84 percent at the foul line.

He has spearheaded numerous late-game rallies that resulted in thrilling Kansas victories.

On Senior Night on Feb. 25, Mason scored 23 points in rallying Kansas from 10 points down to defeat Oklahoma 73-63.

“I don’t think there is a tougher player than Frank Mason — best guard I ever coached,” UK Coach Bill Self told the media. Coach Self has been coaching since 1993 and at Kansas since 2003.

Mason was joined at his final home game in Lawrence, Kan., by his father, Frank Leo Mason Jr., and his son, Amari. Mason’s mother is Sharon Harrison.

A four-year starter at Petersburg High, Mason twice led the Crimson Wave to the State Group AAA finals at the Siegel Center. He scored 2,003 career points for Petersburg under Coach Bill Lawson III.

Initially, Mason signed a scholarship offer to play at Towson University in Maryland, but instead spent a post-graduate season at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock

Mason joined Coach Self’s program for the 2013-14 season and quickly became a dominant figure for the Big 12 Conference juggernaut.       

If the 5-foot-11 Mason is to win the Naismith Trophy, he will become only the second winner under 6 feet. The University of Texas’ T.J. Ford, also 5-foot-11, won in 2003.

Mason’s stature is the main reason why his name isn’t showing up on many NBA mock draft lists.

Mason could become the fifth Virginia native to win the Naismith Trophy.

Ralph Sampson of Harrisonburg High School and the University of Virginia won in 1981, 1982 and 1983.

David Robinson of Osbourn Park High School in Manassas and the Naval Academy won in 1987. Joe Smith of Maury High School in Norfolk and the University of Maryland took the honor in 1995, while J.J. Redick of Cave Spring High School in Roanoke and Duke University prevailed in 2006.

The only winner from the University of Kansas is Danny Manning in 1988 after leading the Jayhawks to the NCAA crown.

The first Naismith Trophy winner was UCLA’s Lew Alcindor in 1969. He later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Last year’s recipient was the University of Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield.

The trophy is named for Dr. James A. Naismith, who is credited with inventing basketball in Springfield, Mass., in 1891. Coincidentally, Naismith later became the first coach at Kansas in 1888.

Mason is one of only two seniors among the 10 semifinalists, joining Josh Hart of defending NCAA champion Villanova.

Mason is no stranger to high honors. In 2015, he was named Most Outstanding Player after leading Team USA to the World University Games title in South Korea.

In his first 139 games at Kansas, Mason had 1,740 points, 537 assists, 471 rebounds, 159 steals and 170 3-point baskets heading into the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.   

The University of Kansas has won the Big 12 each of his four seasons as a Jayhawk. He is an overwhelming favorite to capture the Big 12 Player of the Year title.