From the moment when 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-foot-11 combo guard from Georgia, has plenty of talent in his own right. The three-star recruit proved capable of scoring at the basket and from the perimeter at the high school level. Now, the freshman guard with the potential to root 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 the 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 guard or shooting guard, McHale refers to him as "a younger version of Andre."
"He's got the best of both worlds," McHale said. "I think we could throw him out there at the start of Big Ten lay and put him at [point guard], but we also have the luxury of putting him off the ball."
This summer, the Gophers are looking for Mason to sharpen the overall aspects of his game while building the muscle necessary to stand up to the physicality of the Big Ten.
McHale made it clear that the team will need Mason to play a big role right away come fall. All the while, the coaches hope the year will act as an internship for a potential starting opportunity the following season. That's where looking to Mathieu and Hollins will come in.
"I can already tell," McHale said. "He just tries to emulate what they do."
Marcus Fuller joined the Star Tribune in 2016 after 11 years covering Gophers sports – and just about every other team and league in town -- for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Before making the Twin Cities his home, Marcus spent two years in The Kansas City Star sports department. Marcus grew up in Hawaii and is a 2002 graduate of San Jose State. Follow Fuller on Twitter @Marcus_R_Fuller.