SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — University of Kansas senior Frank Mason III has been named winner of the 2017 Citizen Naismith Trophy, the Atlanta Tipoff Club today announced Sunday. Mason edged out fellow finalists Lonzo Ball (UCLA), Josh Hart (Villanova) and Caleb Swanigan (Purdue) to claim the James A. Naismith Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding men’s college basketball player.
The 5-11 guard was honored at the Sunday's Naismith Awards Brunch. He joins Danny Manning (1988) as the only two Naismith Trophy recipients from Kansas, and becomes the sixth Big 12 recipient, following a pair each from Oklahoma (Buddy Hield, 2016; Blake Griffin, 2009) and Texas (Kevin Durant, 2007; T.J. Ford, 2003).
Mason was chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national voting academy, comprised of leading journalists from around the country, current and former head coaches, former award winners and conference commissioners, who based their selections on outstanding on-court performances during the 2016-17 college basketball season, and by fans, who were eligible to vote at www.naismithtrophy.com/vote from March 20-31. The vote was tabulated and certified by Aprio, formerly Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, the largest full-service, independent CPA-led business advisory firm, based in Atlanta.
The 2017 Big 12 Player of the Year and All-Big 12 First Team (both unanimous selections), Mason averaged 20.9 points per game and was the first Kansas player to lead the Big 12 in scoring since 2004- 05. The Petersburg, Virginia native also led the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (.490), while ranking fourth in assists (5.2 per game). Mason, who will graduate from Kansas with a liberal arts and science degree in May, became the first player in Big 12 and Kansas history to average 20 points and five assists per game in a season. Mason concluded his career sixth on the KU all-time scoring list at 1,885 and sixth in career assists at 576. He is the only player in Kansas history to rank that high in both categories.
“This is one of those seasons for the ages where all the hard work, drive and dedication led to superb individual and team success for Frank, and our voters recognized that by selecting him as the 2017 Citizen Naismith Trophy winner,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
“Dr. Naismith invented the game of basketball and we walk by his original rules every day in Allen Fieldhouse. He was Kansas’ first coach, so winning this award with his name on it and playing at Kansas brings this full circle,” Mason said. “There is no way I could have won the Naismith Trophy without great coaches, like coach (Bill) Self, the rest of the staff and great teammates. We accomplished a lot this season and this would not have been won without my teammates and coaches.”
“Frank has had a terrific four years at Kansas, one in which he has become better and matured each year, culminating with the best season of any player have that I’ve coached and he’s deserving of the Naismith Trophy,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He was the leader, the personality and the most consistent performer on a very good team, averaging close to 21 points and more than five assists per game. More importantly, Frank basically led us through every tough moment, which is what separates him from so many.”
The Citizen Naismith Trophy was first presented in 1969 to UCLA’s Lew Alcindor. Other notable winners have included Larry Bird (1979, Indiana State University), Michael Jordan (1984, University of North Carolina), David Robinson (1987, United States Naval Academy) and Tim Duncan (1997, Wake Forest University).