Quick: who is the leading scorer in college basketball right now? Not Tyler Haws (BYU): he is barely in the top-10. Not Doug McDermott (Creighton): although he might end up there by March. The answer: Niagara shooting guard Antoine Mason, who is averaging 30 points per game through his first eight games of the year. There have been some NCAA legends who have led the nation in scoring in the recent past (Jimmer Fredette in 2011, Stephen Curry in 2009, etc.), but the last player to finish a season with at least 30 per clip was Long Island’s Charles Jones in 1997 (30.1 PPG). It is hard to have the weight of the offense on your shoulders after your team’s two other leading scorers from last year followed your former coach to Hofstra…but it certainly helps to have a father who was an NBA All-Star. Jon Teitel got to sit down with Antoine to figure out what it takes to be the best scorer in the country.
Your dad is former NBA All-Star Anthony Mason, how much of an influence is he on you both on and off the court? He is the main reason I wanted to play basketball while I was growing up after I got to see him play with the Knicks. He is great to talk to and gives me a lot of advice.
You scored 16.7 PPG in three starts as a freshman before missing the rest of the season due to a foot injury, and missed four games last February due to another injury. How is your health at the moment, and have you taken any precautions going forward? My body is good right now: I focused on taking care of it last summer by working out in the weight room.
In 2012 as a redshirt freshman you started every game and were named to the MAAC All-Rookie Team after finishing seventh in the conference in scoring. How were you able to bounce back from your injury to be so successful so quickly? My love of the game. I do not think about injuries while I am playing: I just go out and give it my all.
In 2013 you were 2nd in the conference with 18.7 PPG en route to being named to the All-MAAC first-team and MAAC All-Tournament Team. How are you able to keep improving from year to year? That is my main goal every year. In the summer I look at tapes of both good games and bad games to see what worked well and what did not. I try to add something to my game every year to mix it up, otherwise teams will know exactly what to expect.
You were eighth in the conference last year with 79.4 FT%: what is the key to making FTs? Just repetition: I shoot free throws every day both before and after practice.
During the offseason your head coach Joe Mihalich was hired at Hofstra and was replaced by new coach Chris Casey. How do you like playing for him, and how has he been able to connect with a new group of players? He is amazing: I knew him before he got the job because he was an assistant at St. John’s with my brother (Anthony Jr.). He is always checking up on us and creates a friendship rather than just the usual coach-player relationship.
Two of your three leading scorers from last year also followed Mihalich to Hofstra (Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley). Do you feel extra pressure to fill the offensive void left by their departure? It is hard to replace two great scorers like that, but I wanted to be a bigger part of the team so I came back this year with all I got to help the team.
Your team started this year 1-7 and is giving up more than 90 PPG: do you just need a lot of work on your defense or was the team just got tired after playing three games in three days from November 21-23? We have talked about focusing on defense as a team. We just have to look at ourselves in the mirror and take pride in locking down our opponents.
You are only shooting 50% about 26% from the three point line. Are you going to try shooting less threes or are you just going through a shooting slump? I think it is just a little slump, but I do not want to stop shooting from behind the arc. I want to be a threat from all over the court so that teams do not know how to defend me, which means I have to keep working on my game.
You are currently leading the nation in scoring with 30 PPG. What is your secret for being a great scorer, and what would it mean to you to finish the year as the top scorer in the country? I cannot give you my secret! It would be a good accomplishment to lead the nation in scoring…but it is more important for us to win the conference title.