June 29, 2011
This is a continuation in a series of profiles on former Miami University men's basketball players who are currently or have recently played professional basketball. Today's feature is on Chet Mason, the 2005 MAC Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time All-MAC selection.
Chet Mason has been anything but conventional.
Despite his 6-foot-4 stature, he was one of the most ferocious rebounders in the Mid-American Conference, averaging nearly eight rebounds per game as junior at Miami and 7.6 rebounds per game his senior season while finishing his career as the fifth all-time leading rebounder in program history with 806 boards.
"I established myself as a rebounder at Miami because I wanted to do something different than all the other guys who were playing the point guard position," said Mason. "I wanted to be the best rebounder I could. It's paid off for me because now teams will look at you and give you more money because they realize they don't have to go get a specific player for rebounding if I can come in and average about eight rebounds."
When deciding what college he would attend after prepping at inner-city Cleveland's South High, Mason was chastised by acquaintances for choosing Miami, being grilled on if he knew where he was going and that it was an academic school and being told that he wouldn't make it there.
But proving people wrong is what helps fuel Mason's fire.
"We (Mason and long-time friend Juby Johnson) proved them all wrong," said Mason. "I sit back and laugh because I proved a lot of people wrong. I've got a degree from one of the best universities. Now what can they say. They won't say anything about it now, but they know (they were wrong about me)."
His playing career at Miami spanned from 2001-05. During his time as a RedHawk, he helped Miami to a MAC regular-season title and one of its strongest RPIs in recent years, while earning MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors and First-Team All-MAC distinction as a senior.
It is that edge that continues to propel him in his professional career. In 2010, Mason became the first American to ever earn Most Valuable Player honors in the Adriatic League while playing in Bosnia.
Mason's professional career has included a couple of stretches in the National Basketball Association Developmental League, a stint on the preseason roster with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and stops in Turkey, Slovenia, Bosnia, as well as a pair of five-month stretches in both Latvia and Croatia last year.
He won a pair of national titles while in Bosnia and was a three-time MVP of the Bosnia and Herzegovina League and three-time MVP of the finals.
While being away from family has been the toughest part of his time overseas, last year his wife and three daughters came overseas to live with him.
"Before it was hard because they weren't there. This year my family traveled with me and have been able to see some of the world," said Mason about one of the highlights of playing overseas this past year. "My three kids got to come to Latvia. That's an experience that most kids will never have. They got to see several other countries as we traveled during the season. It was a great experience for them."
Mason and his wife are expecting their fourth child, a daughter, in early July.
Although he spends close to 10 months of the year out of the country, Mason also does his share for his community when he returns home. This year marks the sixth year he has sponsored a free basketball camp and also his feed the hungry basketball tournament.
His free basketball camp for inner city kids is usually near the end of July and is held at the Zelma George Recreational Center in his neighborhood. The camp typically boasts about 400 participants.
"We give them shirts, feed them, teach them basketball skills and talk to them about school," said Mason. "It will be about a three- to four-hour clinic."
"I had to do it," Mason explained when asked about his motivation to hold this event. "When I was coming up, there wasn't anyone doing that in my community. Me being a leader in my community, I've got to step up and do something. I'm trying to reach as many kids as I can because you never know who you might help. You can't help every person, but if you help just one person, then that can be a life saver."
"I've got some kids now who started off with our camps when they were younger who are being recruited to play in college," Mason continued. "I've seen their whole focus change. They've gone from listening to the wrong things to getting focused on a sport. It's important to get a degree, and if it takes sport, or some other area to get you focused, then do whatever it takes."
Mason's charity basketball tournament usually takes place in early August also at the Zelma George Recreational Center and features current and past local basketball players at various levels.
"To get in, people donate a canned good or non-perishable item and we donate that to the local food bank," said Mason.
Mason expects to head back overseas in August but is not sure exactly where he'll be this season. "It's kind of early now," he explained.
As for his future, he looks to get as much out of his professional basketball career as he can.
"I've got a lot more in me," replied Mason. "I don't want to set a time limit for myself. I'd like to play as long as I can. I just want to keep being able to see different parts of the world."