It's inevitable that the name Anthony Mason Jr. brings back memories (good and bad) of the New York Knicks teams of the mid-90s, a squad that some say redefined the way defense was played in the league. True, Mason Jr. is the son of former NBA power forward Anthony Mason, who played 13 seasons in the big show, most notably with the Knicks and Charlotte Hornets. But it's not fair to compare the second coming to the original.
Young Mase, as he prefers to call himself, is looking to make his own mark on the game of basketball. In his sophomore year at St. John's, in pops' old stomping grounds (Mason Sr. attended Springfield Gardens High School in Queens where he played alongside Mason Jr.'s current head coach Norm Roberts). The 6-foot-7, 203 lb. Mason Jr. is averaging 9.9 points to go along with 7.1 rebounds per game, a steady improvement from his freshman year in which he started 23 of 24 games for the Johnnie's. And, of course, he's enjoying the college life. Lou Dubois recently caught up with Mason Jr. to dicuss everything from pops to haircuts to his favorite eats.
SIOC: So the obvious question is to ask what it was like growing up the son of Anthony Mason Sr.?
AM: If I were to describe my relationship with pops, it would probably be different than any other player out there who grows up with a professional athlete as their father. What makes me different is that I grew up with my mother, so I wasn't around him too much. I did see pops from time to time, mostly in the summer, different holidays and of course on television. But our relationship was still pretty cool because he would call me and we'd talk on the phone a lot when I was young.
SIOC: What do you remember of the Knicks teams that your dad played on in the mid-90s?
AM: Honestly, I'm not a sports fan unless I'm playing. I don't really like to watch. So if I were to share information about those teams it would probably be all wrong.
SIOC: What are your memories of visiting pops up here in New York?
AM: When I was young I used to come up here a lot. I didn't go to see many of pops' games at Madison Square Garden, because most of the time when I was in the city it was during the summer. I'd spend a lot of time playing in the parks in Queens and hanging out at my grandmother's house. I went to a few of my pops' camps when I was young, which was pretty cool. But just being here and chilling with him made it fun for me.
SIOC: Since you grew up with your mom, tell me a little about her relationship with you?
AM: She was and still is everything to me. She's at all of my games and she's my biggest fan. In the stands she is definitely a vocal mom. She wouldn't heckle the refs, because my grandmother really took care of that. But mom is more about getting on me and telling me what I did wrong most of the time. Even now, she's the first person I talk to after games. She calls and tells me what I should have done, why I'm not playing well, what I need to do to get better. She is always on me.
SIOC: What were the best parts of growing up in Memphis, Tennessee?
AM: It was fun being around lots of family and friends all the time. Also, being able to go outside all day in the sun, where it's not cold. I liked that. But also, the food is good. My favorite place to eat has always been Red Lobster. Every birthday my mom would ask where I wanted to go for dinner, and every year it was the same -- Red Lobster. But I also used to eat Rally's, Checker's, and of course barbecue. I like Corky's BBQ, but I was also a big fan of this place called Neely's. Check it out if you're in Memphis.
SIOC: What do you love now that you're in college in New York?
AM: Getting the chance to play ball is obviously at the top, especially at a place like the Garden. I feel like as a team we're making improvements too and hopefully we can make it to the Big East Tournament and the big dance this year. But aside from basketball, I'm just getting into my major, which is communications, focused on television and film. I am hoping to open my own production company one day, and I'm going to name it "Young Mase Productions." Other than that, I lay low around here. I watch TV and go to the movies. I'm a mafia and comedy type of guy, with Goodfellas being my favorite.
SIOC: Lastly, your dad was known for his crazy hairstyles, and I notice you've got an M shaved in your eyebrow. Where do these ideas come from?
AM: I get everything done at the same barber shop that my pops uses right around the corner here. It's a family place, my cousin's barbershop, called Cutty's. The M in the eyebrow is as complicated as I'm getting for now. The rest of the hair is staying simple. That's just my style.