Antoine Mason is now one of the most sought after transfers still available at this late stage. He told a Buffalo news station that he has heard from the following 19 schools: Auburn, Boston College, Cincinnati, Fordham, LSU, Maryland, Memphis, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UCLA, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. That's quite a list. Some are even pretty puzzling.
Jon Rothstein tweeted last week on May 29th that Mason had cut down the list from 14 to 3 with those 3 being Auburn, Boston College and Providence.
That was refuted quickly by Anthony Mason, Antoine's father and former New York Knick. Antoine then denied it directly himself via Twitter saying "I did not cut my list down yet."
But on Monday, Rothstein took to Twitter again to report that a source told him Mason would take 3 visits: Auburn, Providence and Boston College in that order. It's clear that Rothstein has a good source on this because Antoine Mason confirmed the visits telling Jeff Borzello"I think the official is Auburn and the others [are] unofficial." That makes sense since Auburn requires a flight and PC and BC are a 3-4 hour drive from Mason's hometown of Queens, NY.
I'll take a look at each of these three schools and breakdown the pro's and con's of each from Mason's perspective.
Bruce Pearl is still subject to his show cause order which prevents him "from conducting any and all recruiting activities as defined by Bylaw 13.02.13." What this essentially means is the Pearl can't recruit players until August 24th when his 3 year show cause order officially expires. Last week from the SEC meetings, Pearl told Nashville's 104.5 The Zone "who can you recruit, given the restrictions? I can't talk to them. I can't call them. I can't be on campus when they visit. I'm in the middle of my show-cause. We've lost some kids because of that. It's delaying what I'm going to be able to do in recruiting, potentially, right away."
While I for one will not cry for Bruce Pearl, if I were a player like Antoine Mason who only had one year to show out for the NBA scouts, I'd want to be to speak with my future head coach before classes begin (August 18th at Auburn). I would also want to be on a team that had a legit chance of making the NCAA tournament because the Big Dance undoubtedly provides the best spotlight for someone trying to play his way into the NBA. It would be a big ask for Pearl to take a team that went 14-16 the year before and make them 6-8 wins better in his first year after not even being able to recruit any players himself until 2 weeks before Labor Day and losing their leading scorer from the prior year.
Auburn is returning Paul Lambert/Tommy Joe Eagles Memorial Trophy winner, which goes to the best all-around player on and off the court, K.T. Harrell. Harrell transferred to Auburn from Virginia. He took 13.4 shots/game (Mason took 18.5 shots/gm) last season and was the 2nd leading scorer on the Tigers squad at 18.3 points/game. Between Harrell and incoming graduate student transfer, K.C. Ross-Miller from New Mexico State, I'm not sure the ball will be in Mason's hands as much as he is hoping to showcase his scoring ability.
On the positive side, despite there being a couple of guards already in place, the Tigers are pretty thin overall at guard. Bruce Pearl has discussed the idea of bringing in the best available players at this point of the recruiting season regardless of position so I'm sure Pearl would take Mason and hope to figure it out later. His team's at Tennessee scored a ton of points (77.5 ppg from 2005-06 through 2010-11) finishing in the top 16 nationally in points/game each of his first 4 years including being top 10 years 1-3 so he definitely likes to get up and down and score.
Ultimately I just question the exposure that Mason will get at Auburn where they will probably be a middle of the pack team in the SEC next season and they played games on ESPN2 once and ESPNU 3 times without making an appearance on ESPN. They had 2 games relegated to ESPN3 and even the games that were on the duece or the U were at odd times (Monday 7pm, Thursday 7pm, Saturday 2pm and 3pm). Yes they had 8 games on the SEC Network but the remaining games either weren't televised at all or were on regional networks. That doesn't sound like the kind of exposure Antoine Mason is looking to get for his last season of eligibility.
Exposure is a little better for Boston College as the Eagles at least made two appearances on ESPN in addition to 5 appearances on ESPN and 7 on ESPNU and there's no doubt the ACC is a better basketball conference than the SEC. However, BC also welcomes in a new coach this offseason and is coming off a sub .500 season where it will be hard to catapult into the NCAA tournament. Going from 8 wins to the NIT would likely be seen as a rousing success.
BC lost their best big man and 2nd leading scorer in Ryan Anderson who transferred to Arizona and a hard-nosed guard and 3rd leading scorer in Joe Rahon who transferred to St. Mary's following the firing of Steve Donahue. The Eagles do have Olivier Hanlan returning who was their leading scorer last season and in addition to being the leading returning scorer from the 8 win 2013-14 squad, he will also be the leading returning rebounder and assist man. The rest of the roster is essentially filled with role players like Lonnie Jackson, Notre Dame transfer Alex Dragicevich, promising rising sophomore Garland Owens and guys seemingly more suited to be playing for Donohue's Cornell teams than a team in the ACC.
BC will be bringing in another graduate transfer guard from Old Dominion, Dimitri Batten who averaged 11 ppg last season and shot a paltry 28.7% from deep, 38% from the field in general and sported a 2 to 1 turnover to assist ratio.
With the lack of talent comes opportunity, I suppose, and Mason will have to be sold that playing in the ACC against teams like Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse will be enough to increase his exposure. I'm not so sure going from last place in the MAAC and scoring 25 ppg to last place in the ACC scoring 20 ppg is what Mason is looking for though.
I know this is a Providence basketball site and people might think this is me being a homer but the Friars are the best fit for Mason and it's not even close.
With the departure of Josh Fortune, PC has about 6 minutes returning from the shooting guard spot and those minutes were split between Ted Bancroft, Tyler Harris and occasionally LaDontae Henton. Mason would likely come in and start and play 25-30 minutes per game from Day 1 in Friartown. He would also be able to get shots because the returning PC players only took 42% of the team's shots last season. In addition to the minutes and scoring opportunities, Mason would get the exposure of playing on national television on Fox Sports 1 almost every game including games at Barclays Center and Rupp Arena. A team trip to Italy later this Summer also doesn't hurt.
Providence is the only team of the 3 receiving visits to have a winning record and make an NCAA Tournament appearance last season. The Friars are poised for another top 4 finish in the Big East despite the loss of Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts to graduation. They have an incoming recruiting class ranked in the top 20 with players who will be contributors right away and add depth to a core of Henton, Harris, Dunn and Desrosiers.
In short, Providence makes the most sense.
Mason did leave open the possibility of more schools being involved beyond these 3 but if he ends up deciding between only these three, I really like Providence's chances.
You can find more of Mike's work on his site, pcbb1917.com and you can also follow him on Twitter @pcbb1917.
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