By Pete Chiodo
April 4, 2013 7:00 a.m. —
Jaymon Mason couldn’t do the interview on Tuesday. He was tied up at the time, visiting the campus at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
The IUP trip was the first stop on a veritable tour of Division II colleges throughout the state that Mason has planned over the next few weeks.
There has been no shortage of invitations for the General McLane senior.
Not that Mason was bragging. He was asked about it, and he answered.
He never has come off as cocky. He’s always been a rather unassuming kid; the kind that doesn’t say a whole lot, just goes out onto the hardwood and does his job.
And he does it quite well.
That’s why these colleges are after him.
That’s why he’s the Meadville Tribune’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the second straight season.
Mason, the Lancers’ 6-foot-3 guard, won last year’s honor after scoring 18.6 points per game. This season he upped that average to 26.9 points a night.
He notched 222 field goals this season, including 61 3-pointers (among the most in District 10) and he did it all while shooting 46.7 percent from the floor (222-for-475).
Plus, he was a master at the foul line, both in getting to the stripe (he attempted 289 free throws this season) and at making it count once he did get there (with 247 makes, he averaged 85.5 percent).
Mason could simply take over a ball game. He had two 40-point performances this season, scoring a school-record 43 over McDowell in early January, and then had 42 against Strong Vincent in February. He also added six games of 30 points or more, and had 16 others in the 20s.
Not that Mason — who finishes his career with 1,467 markers — was being selfish with all that scoring. McLane had graduated some key players last season. He was asked to do more on the offensive end, so he answered.
“Coach (Andy Schulz) told me to step up this year,” said Mason. “We had a lot of younger guys on the team, not a lot of experience. He wanted me to be a leader and score as much as I could to help us win.”
While Mason upped his scoring average by more than eight points a game, he also dished out 120 assists. Admittedly, that’s down from his junior campaign. He had 123 that season.
So, he was a pretty busy guy on offense. How much could he possibly have had left for defense?
A lot, it turns out.
“Well, a lot of times, when someone scores a lot, when they’re so much of a threat offensively, they don’t always concentrate on defense,” said coach Schulz. “Jaymon was just the opposite. He was an outstanding defender. And the nice thing about Jaymon is that you can put him on almost anybody — point guard, shooting guard, forward. So we had a lot of flexibility on what we could do.
“Very few people noticed that about Jaymon because he always seemed to have the ball in his hands, but he could defend with the best of them.”
Mason was one of just two returning starters for the Lancers this season. (Forward Quinn Thompson was the other, and he was solid as well, recording 13.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.) Yet, McLane still managed to ring up a 22-6 record, win its second straight title in District 10’s Class AAA, and advance to the PIAA quarterfinal round for the second straight year.
“We had a great season,” Mason said. “We lost a lot of key guys last year. This year, for us to go as far as we did, was a great thing. Nobody expected us to go this far. But we did it.”
And Mason was the focal point of that effort. This quiet, unassuming kid was asked to be a leader. Once again, he answered.
“It was a little bit of everything,” he said. “I needed to be more vocal on the court. And I definitely wanted to lead by example.”
According to Schulz, “He was a tremendous leader. Look at his work ethic. Every day in practice he always worked his tail off. He doesn’t say much. But he always works hard and he takes basketball very seriously. He was a tremendous role model for the younger guys.”
So, why Mason is our Player of the Year? It’s because his team needed him to fill many roles this season. And he delivered, like no one else did this season.
“He did everything we asked,” said Schulz, “whatever we needed to have done. He scored almost 27 points a game; he shot 86 percent at the foul line; he made so many big baskets; he had the ball in hands 90 percent of the time and he always guarded the other team’s toughest player.
“He was just a tremendous player for us.”