Auburn relying heavily on transfers Mason, Bowers

Auburn hoping for immediate impact from Niagara transfer Mason and JUCO forward Bowers

      
 

 

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Mason Plumlee Is Emerging as Brooklyn Nets’ Most Important Big Man

Mason Plumlee was not on the minds of most Brooklyn Nets fans way back in November.

He was a late first-round pick perceived to have a limited ceiling as a professional player. He also was overshadowed in the Nets’ frontcourt by Brook Lopez, the team’s best player, and recently acquired NBA legend Kevin Garnett.

Most pundits figured Plumlee wouldn’t even make the opening-night roster.

“Everyone seemed to think Nets rookie Mason Plumlee was headed for the NBA’s Developmental League at the start of the season,” reports Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com.

But significant injuries and Plumlee’s own improving skills have thrust the former Duke Blue Devil into the role of starting center for the surging Nets. Lopez went down in December with a season-ending foot injury, while Garnett has missed 11 straight games with back spasms. 

In their absence, Plumlee has played solid basketball at both ends of the court, and he’s starting to get some of the credit for Brooklyn’s remarkable turnaround. 

Since Plumlee took over as the starting center, the Nets have gone 9-2 to close in on the Toronto Raptors‘ top spot in the Atlantic Division.

His per-game numbers (6.8 points, 3.9 rebounds) won’t blow anyone away, but Plumlee wasn’t playing often enough early in the season to fill out the box score—he averaged fewer than nine minutes per game during the month of January.

Since then, head coach Jason Kidd has put more trust in Plumlee and awarded him increased playing time. Since February 1, Plumlee has been the Nets’ best big man by several measures:

Player Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Rebound Rate Field Goal Percentage
Mason Plumlee 105.2 98.8 17.7 .642
Kevin Garnett 96.9 94.8 19.4 .561
Andray Blatche 107.9 102.1 12.4 .468
Jason Collins 104.7 105.2 4.9 .375

It’s not difficult to understand why Plumlee is thriving with the Nets. Brooklyn has athletic swingmen who shoot well, forcing opponents to guard all the way out to the perimeter. As a result, Plumlee has space to finish inside and is often the recipient of accurate passing by the Nets’ generous backcourt of Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston.

This video of a Plumlee dunk from February is a great example. The New Orleans Pelicans defense must respect Brooklyn’s outside shooting. Consequently, all it takes is an impromptu pick-and-roll with Williams to create some space for Plumlee, who uses his 36-inch vertical to complete the play.

These types of plays at the rim make up the majority of Plumlee’s offensive contributions. Look at his shot chart from the past 30 days, via Vorped.com. No wonder his shooting percentage is so high! 

Plumlee is still somewhat raw on defense, but he’s able to make up for a lack of veteran instincts with his superb athleticism. Plus, he’s received some useful tutelage from Garnett, a former Defensive Player of the Year.

“At shootaround he’ll take me through who I’m guarding. He’s really helpful,” Plumlee said, per ESPN.com. It might be paying off already, as Plumlee had three steals Friday night in Brooklyn’s victory over the Boston Celtics.

Plumlee still has some work to do on his game, as Timothy Bontemps of the New York Post points out:

However, he’s been an integral part of a Nets team that looked doomed after Lopez’ injury. Even if Garnett returns, Plumlee will be an important interior weapon for the Nets as the playoffs approach. 

 

All Statistics from NBA.com

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WATCH: Gerald Green with a sick dunk over Mason Plumlee

Gerald Green is widely known around the NBA as being a top five dunker, and on Monday night he furthered that notion. En route to a 17-point performance off the bench (since Eric Bledsoe is back now), Green threw down this ridiculously insane double-clutch dunk over and around Mason Plumlee. Mason’s brother, Miles, coincidentally was the one who got the assist on the play. I’m sure Mason will hear about that many times in the future. [NBA's Instagram] The post Gerald Green Throws Down Incredible Dunk Over and Around Mason Plumlee appeared first on Diehardsport.

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Kansas’ Frank Mason Pulls off Nice Crossover, Defender Falls Down

The Kansas Jayhwaks were taking on the West Virginia Mountaineers in a Big 12 matchup on Saturday, and freshman guard Frank Mason looked ready to play.

On a fastbreak, Mason got the ball and was determined to get to the basket. He went with the crossover and completely burned West Virginia’s Gary Browne, with the defender falling completely over.

The Jayhawks led the Mountaineers 43-36 at halftime.

[Youtube, h/t College Spun]

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5 Takeaways from George Mason Basketball’s Loss to No. 19 Saint Louis

The George Mason Patriots squandered another late-game advantage in an 87-81 loss to the No. 19 St. Louis Billikens on Saturday.

The Patriots, the newest member of the Atlantic 10 Conference in men’s basketball, lost their eighth consecutive game and remained winless in conference play (0-7) this season. Just as the story has gone all season long, the Patriots led by seven on three separate occasions but were unable to fend off the Billikens late in the game.

Despite trailing at the half, the Patriots took the lead immediately out of the break and held the advantage for the entirety of the second half until the Billikens’ Rob Loe tied the game at 68 with 44 seconds left. George Mason could not win the game in regulation, after two shot attempts rimmed out, and Saint Louis ran away with the victory in overtime.

After another heartbreaking loss for the Patriots, the following is a list of five keys Patriots fans can take away from their latest defeat.

Begin Slideshow

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Is Mason Plumlee a Keeper for the Brooklyn Nets?

Brooklyn Nets rookie Mason Plumlee has had an up-and-down season so far, being thrust into some tough situations as the frontcourt has dealt with a ton of injuries.

On the whole, the No. 22 pick has been impressive, though. He won’t be competing for Rookie of the Year, but to get 13 points and seven rebounds per 36 minutes from a young big man is nothing to complain about.

What’s particularly notable is Plumlee‘s field-goal percentage. He’s shooting 63 percent on the season, which indicates that he knows his limitations and is selective with his offensesomething a lot of rookies struggle with.

Of course, a big reason for that is the Nets’ talent elsewhere in offense, but it’s still a positive nonetheless.

Plumlee‘s minutes have dropped significantly in recent weeks—he’s eclipsed the 10-minute mark just twice in the new yearbut there was a point around the peak of his playing time that he was considered a top-10 rookie on ESPN, NBA.com and Sheridan Hoops’ respective rookie rankings.

From the 16th to the 29th of November, Plumlee was averaging 20.7 minutes per game, and that’s where we really started to see signs of a productive player.

That stretch included two of the three games in which he’s reached double figures in scoring, highlighted by this performance against the Los Angeles Clippers:

With Andray Blatche back and performing well in 2014, chances are we won’t see much more of Plumlee for the rest of the season, save the occasional game where the team decides to rest Kevin Garnett completely.

Ultimately, though, the little we have seen of Plumlee should be taken as a positive. It’s hard to gauge his exact ceiling, but for a team strapped of cap space and draft picks in the coming years, it’s nice to know that the least the Nets have here is an efficient, athletic 7-footer.

The key for Plumlee‘s development is going to be taking as many pointers as possible from the likes of KG, Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd. In terms of veteran presence, this is one of the best situations in the NBA for a rookie, and he needs to take advantage of that as much as he possibly can.

Given that he’ll be under contract for the foreseeable future, Plumlee was always going to be a keeper for the next few years, but the limited action we’ve seen from him indicates he’ll be someone worth developing, rather than just roster filler.

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Williams helps No. 16 UMass edge George Mason (Yahoo Sports)

Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon (2) raises his arms to the crowd as he and Chaz Williams (3) heads off the court after they beat George Mason 88-87 in an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — If Chaz Williams still had any lingering effects from a bone bruise he suffered in his left ankle last weekend, it certainly did not show against George Mason.


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4-point play: Instant analysis on UMass-George Mason

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the Atlantic 10 clash.

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Meet Antoine Mason, the NCAA’s Runaway Scoring Leader with a Famous Father

Every time Antoine Mason leaves the Niagara locker room to head back out for the second half, an intimidating presence is waiting for the NCAA’s scoring leader before he takes the court.

It’s his father, Anthony Mason. Yes, that Anthony Mason of the 1990s Knicks who was one of the scariest dudes to stare down in basketball.

Anthony has found a nice retirement niche: Turning his son into a pro.

The story of Antoine is much like his father’s, minus the part where son grows up to a life of riches with his pops in the pros.

Antoine was under-recruited as a high school player and didn’t receive any major offers. Anthony, an undersized power forward at 6’7″, also had to go the small-school route at Tennessee State. He averaged 28.0 points per game as a senior and was drafted by the Trail Blazers in the third round of the 1988 NBA draft.

“I know what it takes to make it,” Anthony said. “All you ever hear when you go to that level is how hard it is. The odds are 20,000 to one. That was my chip.”

Anthony bounced around overseas and in the CBA and USBL between cups of coffee in the league before finally catching on with the Knicks in 1991.

He’s reliving that history through his son.

Antoine, a fourth-year junior, averages 28.3 points per game this year—it’s a goal of his to beat his dad’s senior-year average—and he has aspirations to play in the NBA.

“I think the NBA is within reason,” Antoine said.

“Let’s keep it honest,” Anthony said of Antoine’s pro potential. “He’s the No. 1 scorer in the country. Somebody’s watching.”

So far, only one NBA scout has made it to a Niagara game this season.

The reality for most small-school stars putting up big numbers on struggling teams is that they’ll get their chance overseas.

Of course, the stories of small-school guys making it (Steph Curry at Davidson, Damian Lillard at Weber State and Kenneth Faried at Morehead State) have given hope to players like Antoine.

The big difference between Antoine and the success stories is that Curry, Lillard and Faried all played on winning teams. The Purple Eagles are 4-13 under first-year coach Chris Casey.

And that has been the story for several of the recent NCAA scoring leaders. They rack up stats and empty dreams playing on mediocre teams. Curry and Jimmer Fredette have been the exceptions. Antoine fits more with the group below of recent scoring leaders from small schools. Reggie Williams from VMI is the only one of the four to play a minute in the NBA.

But Antoine does have the benefit of knowing a guy with some connections, and like Curry and Lillard, his numbers aren’t the typical empty stats of a chucker on a bad team.

Antoine is one of the best drivers in college basketball, and that’s a statement that would be true if he played at Kentucky or Niagara. He can drive either direction—he’s a righty who goes left more than he goes right, according to Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required). He was born a lefty, like his father, but his grandmother switched the fork from his left hand to his right hand.

“No telling what he might have been if he was left-handed,” Anthony said. “We’re hard to check.”

The ability to go either direction and take a hit or two has made him tough to keep out of the paint, where he has an array of runners and scoop shots. He makes a solid 50.8 percent of his twos and leads the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (8.8), per KenPom.com (subscription required).

“He’s an efficient scorer,” Casey said. “He’s not just running down and chucking up shots. His numbers are quality numbers.”

The only area of his offensive game that needs improving is his outside shot. He’s a 30.4 percent three-point shooter, and Anthony says he has a hitch they’re working to eliminate. At 6’3″, it’s tough to make it to the league without a jumper.

That’s the bonus of playing at a place like Niagara. Casey has been willing to still give Mason the green light. After all, he’s the second-best three-point shooter percentagewise on his team.

Anthony also likes that his son gets to play multiple positions and diversify his game at Niagara. He’s experienced what’s it like to have a son at a major program as well. His older son, Anthony Mason Jr., played at St. John’s from 2005 to 2010 and is now playing for the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the D-League.

“What I like about small colleges is you get a better chance to play your position,” Anthony said. “If you go to a Kansas or a Kentucky, if you’re a center, you’re a center. If you’re a shooting guard, you’re a shooting guard. When you’re at a smaller college, like myself, I played across the floor and I think that helps you at the next level than just playing one position.

“It doesn’t matter what school you go to, if you can play, you can play. Any time you got into competition with anybody at a big school who had a name, then you destroyed them and people didn’t see where you go as long as you can play the game.”

Anthony made sure Antoine learned at a young age that he could hang with anyone.

When Antoine was in middle school and tearing it up in the suburbs of Westchester, Anthony took him to Rucker Park.

“Because if you don’t play in the city, you don’t play basketball,” Anthony said. “He was getting his ass handed to him at first. When he stuck it out, I knew he was going to be special.”

In Antoine’s one opportunity against a “big school” this year, he scored 34 points in Niagara’s opener against Seton Hall from the Big East.

Niagara also played Curry’s alma mater, Davidson, a program that has been to back-to-back NCAA tournaments.

Antoine struggled through back spasms for most of the game, but he ended up scoring 16 of his 21 points in the final eight minutes to help Niagara pull off the upset.

“I was either going to go out on the ground with a back spasm or it was going to get better,” Antoine said.

“His work ethic and his tenacity and his attitude, ‘I’m not going to let somebody stop me’ reminds me of myself,” Anthony said. “I never thought I could be stopped.”

No one has stopped Antoine either. He’s scored 30 or more points nine times and his season low is 18. The NCAA’s second-leading scorer, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, averages 3.3 less points per game.

Antoine said he talks to his dad every day and he has continued to play a big role in his development. Along with the halftime pep talks, the two watch film after every game in an attempt to get rid of bad habits.

And those halftime chats are apparently working. The Purple Eagles have been outscored by 126 points in the first half this year, and they’re plus-six after halftime.

“We try to eliminate the next game,” Anthony said. “If something’s not going right in the first half, we try to adjust and he’s great at adapting. So you don’t have to go a whole game making a mistake.”

At the end of the year, father and son will have a decision to make together. Antoine graduates in the spring, but he still has another year of eligibility left because of a foot injury that forced him to redshirt as a freshman.

He could book it for the pros after he wins a scoring title or spend another year working on his weaknesses at Niagara. The odds may be against him, but he has a father who knows what it takes and believes in his son.

“He hasn’t reached his apex yet,” Anthony said. “If he can fix that jumper, no telling what he can can score.”

 

C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @cjmoore4.

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George Mason rallies to beat Saint Mary’s 65-63 (Yahoo Sports)

George Mason guard Patrick Holloway (3) drives the baseline as Saint Mary's (Calif.) guard Jordan Giusti (12) guards Holloway during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Diamond Head Classic on Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, in Honolulu. George Mason won 65-63. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

HONOLULU (AP) — Patrick Holloway and Bryon Allen scored 15 points each as George Mason rallied to beat Saint Mary’s 65-63 in Wednesday’s seventh-place game of the Diamond Head Classic.


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