Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — Anthony Mason Jr. says he’s fully healthy and can’t wait for the 2008-09 season to begin.
“It’s the most important year, I can’t wait for the season to start. I can’t,” Mason, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound senior forward and the son of former Knicks standout Anthony Mason, said Wednesday at St. John’s Media Day.
Mason underwent surgery in the spring to repair a high ankle sprain in his left leg that caused him to miss eight games a year ago. He averaged 14 points and 4.4 rebounds and earned Big East honorable mention status. Mason dropped 29 points in back-to-back games against Pittsburgh and Louisville in January.
“I twisted my ankle in a [preseason] scrimmage and then the next time I did it, I knew I was probably going to have to have surgery,” Mason said. “And I didn’t want to end the season, just stop playing, so I decided to play it out and wait until the end of the season.
“Last year I was off and on. I was probably about 80 [percent]. The most frustrating part was going, coming back, I’m good, I’m not good…That was probably the most frustrating part. It’s never fun when I know I can be out there helping the team.”
This year, Mason and sophomore forward Justin Burrell (left) are expected to be the 1-2 punch for the Red Storm, who finished 11-19 a year ago.
“We expect [Mason] to be a leader,” St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts said. “We expect him to be a guy that’s a double-figure guy every night. He’s gotta be our go-to guy on the perimeter. When you watch him play, he does a great job of making tough shots with guys hanging on him. The thing that he’s gotta get better at is making the open shot. When you’re wide open, just step up and stick it. Those are the shots he’s gotta get better at making.
“I also think he’s gotta score in different ways. He’s gotta be able to get to the free throw line. At 6-foot-7, long athletic, he can dunk any way he wants to. When you’re not going good, and the shots are not falling, you gotta get to the free throw line….He’s got to do those things to get himself going when the jump shot’s not there.”
The supporting cast includes D.J. Kennedy, Malik Boothe, Rob Thomas, Dele Coker, Sean Evans and Paris Horne.
The 5-9 Boothe out of Christ the King becomes the starting point guard with the departure of Eugene Lawrence.
The 6-10 Coker looks like a different person because he’s in much better shape. The sophomore dropped about 25 pounds and now weighs 262. He could be a major force defensively.
Roberts would like to see 6-6 redshirt sophomore forward Rob Thomas become more aggressive. Thomas, who tore his ACL and LCL in 2007, lost about 30 pounds in the offseason and said he’s improved his stamina and is working on his jump shot.
“I think he’s going to be able help us scoring-wise,” Roberts said. “The thing we’re trying to get Rob to be, is just more tenacious. I’m almost saying to him, he’s too much of a good guy. You don’t need to be as much of a good guy…From a physical standpoint, he’s in far better shape. He’s more confident in his knee. He probably understands more of what we’re doing than he did last year, so I expect Rob to help us.”
Roberts said he also thought Horne, a sophomore guard, might step up to be the third option.
“Paris has been working on his game a lot,” Mason said. “He’s athletic as hell. He can jump out of the jump. His jumper is looking good. He got his handle down. He’ll probably help out Malik a little bit bringing it up the court. I believe all of them, but Paris will open up some eyes this year.”
St. John’s was picked 14th out of 16 teams in the Big East, behind No. 12 Rutgers and No. 13 Seton Hall.
“It’s motivation, motivation,” Mason said. “Those are numbers to me. The season hasn’t even started yet.”
The Red Storm open the season Nov. 14 against LIU before playing in the NIT Season Tip-Off against Cornell and Boston College or Loyola (Md.).
VOTING FOR OBAMA: Mason returned home to his native Memphis to vote in Tuesday’s Presidential election.
“I went to this middle school to vote,” he said. “It took probably 45 minutes.”
Mason watched the results come in with his mother, Monica Bryant, and great-grandmother, Mary Jackson.
“It was fun. My mother and them was crying a little bit. Most of my people, my uncles lived through the Martin Luther King movement. My great-grandmother, I asked her what President she remembered, and she said President [Franklin] Roosevelt.”
RECRUITING UPDATE: St. John’s could add a perimeter player in the fall signing period, which begins Nov. 12. The Red Storm are also hoping Lance Stephenson falls into their lap in the spring. Stephenson, the 6-5 shooting guard out of Brooklyn Lincoln, says he will wait until the spring signing period before committing. Some think he may also choose to go overseas.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.