Josh Jackson has been in Kansas since early June, long enough to learn through pick-up games and practices — and now two exhibitions and two regular-season contests — that he's playing on the perimeter with one talented senior basketball player.
"Frank is so tough. I look up to him so much," Jackson said of 5-foot-11, 190-pound combo guard Frank Mason, whose 15-foot jumper with 1.8 seconds left propelled the No. 7-ranked Jayhawks to a 77-75 victory over No. 1 Duke on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic at New York's Madison Square Garden.
FRANK MASON THE THIRD! His elbow jumper with 1.8 seconds to play gives #7 Kansas a 77-75 win over #1 Duke. pic.twitter.com/oNVH6GUWKt— March Madness 2017 (@Madness2017) November 16, 2016
"You really can't take that guy for granted. Every team does not have a Frank Mason. He saves us a lot. Having his presence really does a lot for us. He makes us play at a different level, makes us play really hard and tough."
A preseason All-Big 12 selection, Mason has put up All-America type numbers in KU's first two games. He scored a team-leading 21 points against Duke after hitting a career-high 30 in KU's 103-99 overtime loss to Indiana on Nov. 11 in Hawaii.
"I think the NBA is missing the boat on him," said KU coach Bill Self, who welcomes pro scouts to practice regularly. "He doesn't fit the eye test with length and standing height, that kind of stuff. He has some things you can't teach — intangibles that are as good as anybody in America probably possess.
"Devonte' is the same way, too," Self added of 6-foot-2 junior guard Devonte' Graham, who scored 13 points, with three rebounds and two assists while playing 40 minutes against Duke. He scored 16 points with four assists and three rebounds in 36 minutes against Indiana.
Self was a bit more optimistic about the duo's NBA chances on Wednesday's Hawk Talk radio show.
"I think they both can [play in the pros]. I don't think we're talking lottery picks guaranteed, but there are only so many of those," Self said. "I think Devonte' fits the eye test to some of those people a little better because he's taller. You can't measure how tall Frank is [by] standing height. He plays a lot taller than that. I do think things have to go right but I think they are both NBA players and I think there's a lot of people starting to feel that way as well."
Self reminded the media after Tuesday's game that, "we've had some good guards. [Sherron] Collins and [Russell] Robinson and [Mario] Chalmers back there. There were three of them [on the 2008 NCAA title team]. We only have two of those. Those guys [Graham, Mason] are both pit bulls, have an assassin mentality. They probably bring our team as much toughness as anybody does.
"We don't always play pretty. This team is not going to. Certainly we can compete. We didn't compete in Hawaii like we did [versus Duke]. Even though we didn't play great, at least we competed," Self added.
Milestone coming for Self
KU will next meet Siena at 7 p.m. Friday in Allen Fieldhouse in the first game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. The Jayhawks move to the Sprint Center in Kansas City to meet UAB at approximately 8:30 p.m. Monday and face either George Washington or Georgia at either 6:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. Tuesday.
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A victory by KU on Friday would make 14th-year KU coach Self the winningest coach in Allen Fieldhouse history. His teams have a 206-9 record in Allen.
Ted Owens' squads won 206 games against 47 losses in the building. The Jayhawks were 201-17 at home under Roy Williams, 71-5 under Larry Brown, 51-29 under Dick Harp and 9-2 under Phog Allen.
This article was written by Gary Bedore from The Kansas City Star and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.