Drake allows former Highlands star Mason to talk with Duquesne
Former Highlands basketball star Micah Mason may be homesick, but he remains hungry — figuratively for more basketball, and literally for food that agrees with his body.
And if his mother, Karen, is going to continue to prepare his organic meals, Mason wants her to do so in the family kitchen, not in Des Moines, Iowa.
Mason assures that his dietary needs — and issues it caused for his family — fueled his decision to leave Drake, where he just completed his freshman season.
It had nothing to do with coaches leaving or playing time.
Drake released Mason to talk to Duquesne University, and could add more schools, which ultimately will impact his decision on where to transfer.
Mason just knows he wants to play closer to Natrona Heights and his “support system.”
He will have to sit a year if he transfers from one Division I program to another. He wants a healthy start in more ways than one.
“I just want it to all be normal again, for me and my family,” Mason said. “And I want to stay normal.”
Mason can't have gluten or grains, and is allergic to corn, which all but limits his specially-prepared meals to meats and vegetables.
Mason's family hired two different personal chefs, but ultimately decided the best move was for his mother, Karen, to move to Des Moines, and help her son cope.
She's lived there since September.
“I had two chefs, and we tried the meals-on-wheels thing,” Mason said. “My mom came out here and bought a house. That's ridiculous just so I can play basketball. She shouldn't be out here.”
After his junior season at Highlands, Mason was diagnosed with POTS Syndrome, which includes fatigue, dizziness and digestive issues. He thinks those symptoms are becoming less prevelant.
He admits the personal attention from his mother was appreciated — and needed.
“Sure, I can cook, but there wasn't time,” Mason said. “I don't think people understand the Division I basketball life.
“You go to class in the morning, lift, practice, then go to class at night. Any other student walks by the cafeteria. There's no time to cook, and to cook the right way.”
Mason admits to “cheating” on his diet on ocassion, but paying the price.
“I would feel sluggish; just not right,” he said. “I slept different. I had brain fog and heart palpatations.”
Mason believes he can play at any Division I school. When news of his transfer broke, Pittsburgh sports-talk radio was rampant with Mason talk, with many callers and anchors questioning whether the guard could play at schools like Pitt.
“That motivates me,” he said. “People are going to say what they want. Look at (the type) of players who are in the Sweet 16. We have come to a time in Division I basketball where it doesn't matter what conference you're from.”
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon scouted Mason at one game during his junior season at Highlands, but never contacted him.
Pitt has not shown interest in him, although the airwaves have been alive with talk of the Panthers needing a 3-point shooter.
Mason, who played in 30 games and made 11 starts this season, finished fourth in the nation in 3-point shooting, at 50.6 percent (40 for 79). He is the WPIAL's all-time leader in 3-pointers made (346) and is 12th in league history in scoring (2,272 points).
One of Mason's best college games came against Final Four team Wichita State. He scored 14 points, including four 3-pointers, against the Shockers, the team that knocked Pitt out of the NCAA Tournament.
Mason averaged 5.4 points and 2.3 assists per game.
Drake fired fifth-year coach Mark Phelps after a 15-17 season, and Mason was granted his release a day later. Mason said the plan to leave was in the works long before Phelps' departure.
“(Drake) talked about me staying to see who the new coach is,” Mason said. “But I was going home no matter what.”
Mason thinks the change of scenery and extra year will aid his development and could help improve his health.
“I need to get stronger and faster, and the year off will help,” he said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. Whatever happens to help shape me into whoever I am supposed to be. I can deal with that.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.