Freshmen athletes often have a hard time adjusting to their respective teams and to the social and academic atmosphere of college.
But Jon Mason, a freshman sensation on the FAMU men’s basketball team, has quickly earned the respect of his coaches and teammates not only with his play, but also with his maturity on the court.
“He has a great feel for the game, he’s a true combo guard,” said Mike Gillespie Jr., an assistant coach for FAMU. “Mason not only brings his ability to the team, but he brings a positive attitude and a good sense of humor.”
Mason, a physical education student from Panama City, is known for his ability to make others laugh.
“He’s a funny guy. He always has jokes and is always happy,” said O.J. Sumter, a senior forward from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Despite bringing his many attributes to the team, Mason works out regularly to try and fix his one weakness – his size. Mason said he feels other schools passed on him because of his 6-foot-3-inch, 160-pound frame.
Mason, who has been playing organized basketball since the second grade, said he didn’t have a problem with his size growing up because whatever he lacked in size, he made up for in pure talent and heart.
Sebastian Roulhac said that one word describes what Mason was like growing up. Nerdy.
“He was real smooth and laid back, kind of quiet too,” said Roulhac, one of Mason’s best friends.
Mason, who has two older siblings, was raised by Anna and Brian Walker, his mother and stepfather.
Whether it was baseball, basketball or soccer, Mason said he was always involved in sports. In his free time when he wasn’t playing, Mason would volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club and Hospice helping cancer patients.
Although he was somewhat quiet, he had many friends.
“Jon always seemed to fit in, and he was OK just being by himself,” Anna Walker said.
Mason wasn’t just a friend to everyone growing up. Roulhac said he was also a “ladies man.”
Still, Mason said his No. 1 lady has and always will be his mother.
“Jon was a very good kid, very well behaved and never gave us grief,” said Anna Walker.
Mason took the lessons of his parents to his high school team and AAU traveling team. His AAU team had the opportunity to play against some of the nation’s top teams and players including NBA players Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and Sebastian Telfair of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Bay High School went to the state semifinals during his junior year and the regional finals during his senior year.
Though never winning a state championship, Mason received serious looks from many college scouts, particularly from Gillespie.
“It was a no-brainer, he had a great feel for the game and he was the vocal leader,” Gillespie said
Mason said even though he gets the occasional freshman treatment, he’s developed a bond with all of his teammates, especially his roommate, guard Tony Tate. “He’s the future,” Tate said.
Mason said he appreciates Tate’s guidance.
“He (Tate) took me under his wing and really showed me the ropes,” Mason said.
Mason has also developed a level of comfort around the coaching staff, which knows him as a clown in practice, always cutting up and having fun.
Mason said that by the time he’s done playing for FAMU he hopes to be looked at as a hard-working role model that kids can look up to on and off the court. He said he knows he has a long way to go to be the player he wants to be, but with the help of his teammates and his coaches, he has no doubt that he can get there.
If anyone besides Mason believes those intuitions, it’s his mother.
“Jon has always been able to accomplish anything he put his mind to.”
Contact Arize Ifejika at email@example.com