Yale made a big splash this year when they upset the number five seed Baylor and went on to give Duke a run for their money. Not only did Yale make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1962, it was the first time in school history that the program advanced past the first round. So there’s no doubt about it- this was a big year for Yale basketball.
Graduating senior and Ivy League Player of the Year, Justin Sears has been showcasing his talent since the Bulldog season ended- he appeared in the NABC All-Star game and in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. Sears isn’t the only one whose sights are set on basketball at the next level. In March, sophomore guard Makai Mason declared himself eligible for the NBA draft, but did not hire an agent.
Mason had a breakout year for the Bulldogs. His minutes per game jumped from 19 to 32 in his sophomore campaign, and his productivity exponentially improved as well. Mason led Yale in scoring (16 ppg) and assists (3.8), and came in a three way tie for first with steals for the season (25). On the biggest stage, Mason showed that he’s ready to shine. He dropped 31 points on Baylor, including this beauty (step back, anyone? Was that Makai Mason or James Harden?)
Yale Coach James Jones has lauded Mason’s leadership and dedication all season.
Mason did not emerge as a major key for the Bulldogs by mistake- he is a gym rat and is constantly seeking to improve. Many people have said that Mason doesn’t have the "look" of a basketball player, and that his appearance causes opponents to take him less seriously. Baby face or not, Mason is a for real competitor and a big time talented player. Perhaps seeking to show that he is equal parts raw talent and strong fundamentally, Mason has been showcasing his athleticism at his pre-draft workouts so far- the kid has jumps for days.
But this early on in his college tenure, is Mason’s game really compatible with professional play? Probably not. But, thanks to new NCAA rules, NBA hopefuls can dip their toes in the water before committing fully and losing remaining college eligibility. Prospects have until ten days after NBA draft combines end to decide whether they want to withdraw their names or not. This year, the deadline is May 25.
So no, it’s not likely that Mason will be donning an NBA jersey next year. It’s much more likely that he will go through the combine process and use it as a networking opportunity, and as a chance to show that he can shine outside of Ivy play. Only positive things can come from competing against guys who most definitely will be in the NBA next year, in front of NBA scouts and executives.
The good news for Bulldog fans is that, assuming Mason returns, Yale should once again be able to make some noise in the Ivy and perhaps the NCAA Tournament once again.