From the moment Nate Mason signed his letter of intent to the University of Minnesota, the Gophers coaching staff hoped he’d benefit from the presence of the team’s veteran backcourt.

Already, assistant Dan McHale sees that hope taking shape.

Mason, a 5-11 combo guard from Georgia, has plenty of talent. The three-star recruit proved capable of scoring at the basket and from the perimeter in high school. Now, the freshman guard with the potential to secure a sixth man role next season is working on honing those skills with the help of Gophers seniors Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu.

“They’ve really taken Nate under their wing,” McHale said. “Learning from two seniors is the biggest advantage for him.”

Mason has been grouped with the pair this summer in individual workouts, allowing him to exploit the similarities he shares with them. Like Mathieu, Mason is quick and crafty at finding gaps in the lane. Like Hollins, he can light it up from the outside. With the ability to play either point or shooting guard, McHale refers to him as “a younger version of Andre.”

Gold in the Barn: startribune.com/gophers