Basketball

The Mason Jones Story: From Undrafted Rookie to Future Star

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For most people outside of Northwest Arkansas, and now in Houston, a guy like Mason Jones doesn’t look like someone ready to make an immediate impact for an NBA squad. But the Mason Jones story doesn’t look like most people think it should. The amount of success that he has garnered at the professional level comes as anything but a surprise to those that know him.

The Mason Jones Story

While Mason Jones has basketball in his blood, he didn’t start playing basketball until his high school senior year. His brother, Matt Jones, played at Duke but didn’t make it into the NBA.

The DeSoto, Texas native played ball at Triple-A Academy for one year before playing one season at Link Year Prep in Branson, Missouri. At Triple-A Academy, he averaged 16 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.

Coming out of high school, Jones played his freshman year of college at Connors State College, a JUCO in eastern Oklahoma. There, he had similar stats to his high school days, averaging 15.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.

After his freshman season at Connors State, Jones held offers from Arkansas, BYU, and Washington. He ultimately decided to commit to Mike Anderson and the Arkansas Razorbacks, and the future star made his way to The Hill.

Fresh Start in the SEC for Mason Jones

Coming into the Razorback program in 2018, he joined Isaiah Joe, who was drafted by the 76ers in 2020, and Desi Sills, a current Razorback guard who puts it all on the floor every single night regardless of the score.

In the 2018-19 season, Jones finished third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding, averaging 13.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. The Hogs saw a quick exit in the SEC Tournament that year, and then another early exit in the NIT, losing to Indiana after a win against Providence.

By the end of the year, Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson was let go, and the Hogs hired Eric Musselman from Nevada. The marriage of Musselman’s play style with Mason’s work ethic led to one of Jones’s most productive seasons and the one that would ultimately lead him to the NBA.

The 2019-2020 Season

In most cases, first-year head coaches get a pass for the season that they have, as long as they can show a strong recruiting class, coupled with some form of improvement on the floor. Coach Musselman inherited two guys who would be playing significant minutes for their respective NBA programs, but neither would be there without their final collegiate season.

It started with a leaner non-conference schedule, playing against teams like Valparaiso, Rice, Northern Kentucky, South Dakota, and others. After a 32 point outing against Rice, Jones was named the SEC Player of the week. He won that honor again after dropping 41 points against Tulsa, which was also the most points that a Razorback had scored since Joe Kleine dropped 41 on Iowa State. Their non-conference schedule was capped by two strong opponents on the road, Georgia Tech and Indiana (where current Hog starter Justin Smith played that season).

The game against Georgia Tech was Jones’ most memorable for Hog fans. Jones scored 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. He also hit this gem of a game-winner to leave Atlanta with the win:

It was clear after that game in Atlanta that Mason was the go-to guy. Throughout the entire season, Mason’s stats were littered with games where he would drop between 30 and 40 points. The biggest shame of the entire season was that we never got a chance to see the Hogs play in the NCAA Tournament because it was canceled due to COVID. At the end of the season, Jones finished as the SEC’s leading scorer, averaging 22 PPG.

While we can’t know for sure what would have happened had the Razorbacks competed in the postseason, looking at how the Hogs had caught fire toward the end of the season, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see them make a run. I truly believe that if they had played in the NCAA Tournament, they would have made a deep run on the back of Mason Jones.

On To The Next Challenge

After the whirlwind of the uncertainty of 2020, Mason Jones declared for the NBA draft and went to work to hear his name called in the NBA Draft. Unfortunately, he did not hear his name called by Adam Silver. That didn’t phase Jones in the slightest, though, as he knew his hard work would garner him a place at the NBA table. Jones signed a 2-way contract with the Houston Rockets as an undrafted free agent. Once again, he put his head down and went to work.

The Rockets season started rather rocky, with the drama of James Harden wanting out of Houston and first-year coach Stephen Silas trying to keep the team competing in an increasingly competitive Western Conference.

Jones started the season playing sparingly and scored his first points against the Magic on January 8th. After that, his best game was against the Spurs on January 14th, where he went 4-8 from the field and scored 9 points in 14 minutes. Though, you could see that he was putting the work in behind the scenes and was determined to make a name for himself.

A few games later, Mason put up 10 points in a loss to the Bulls but did so on 3-4 shooting, including 2-3 beyond the 3-point line. He is coming along nicely and looks like someone who could have been selected somewhere in the draft. His best game of the season was against the Mavericks, where his 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists helped lead the Rockets to a 133-102 win over the struggling Dallas squad.

The Mason Jones Story

Mason Jones is playing like a guy who got drafted, and after the departure of James Harden, he has the opportunity to play a major part on a team that has been playing extremely well as of late. It is not much of a stretch for Jones to be considered a guy who could go from undrafted rookie to future star, and while some could be none the wiser to the kind of player he could be, for the people who have followed him, it makes total sense.

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Dan is a Journalism student at Wichita State University, in Wichita, KS. He has been apart of Overtime Heroics since 2020, and has plans to work in sports media for his career. Born and raised in Fayetteville, AR, Daniel is a diehard Razorbacks fan, and bleeds Razorback red (but, I mean, don't we all?).