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Gophers guard Mason selected to Bob Cousy Award watch list

A year ago, Nate Mason entered the Gophers season feeling disrespected with no preseason talk about him being one of the better point guards in the Big Ten.

Now the praise is palpable for the returning All-Big Ten performer. 

Mason, a 6-foot-2 senior captain, was named Monday to the preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard.

The last time a Gophers floor leader was a Cousy Award candidate was Andre Hollins going into his junior season in 2013-14.

Hollins was a top-20 finalist for the award during his sophomore year when he earned all-league honors and led the U to the NCAA tournament second round in 2013.

In 2016-17, Mason helped Minnesota to a school-record 16-game turnaround leading the team in scoring (15.2), assists (5.0), steals (1.4), free-throw percentage (80.8) and minutes played (34.5). He was the first player in team history to surpass 500 points and 100 assists in the same season. The Georgia native was also the program’s first All-Big Ten first-team selection since Vincent Grier in 2005.    

Also named to the Cousy Award watch list from the Big Ten are Northwestern senior Bryant McIntosh and Iowa sophomore Jordan Bohannon. Cousy full preseason watch list is here.

Mason suffered a minor ankle sprain this month, but he's expected to be fine. He's in the best shape of his career after recovering from a hip injury that sidelined him for several weeks after the NCAA tournament.  

In a Star Tribune Q&A in August, Mason talked about competing with freshman Isaiah Washington in practice and participating in the Chris Paul Elite Camp for point guards this summer.

Four-star wing Johnson would bring versatility to Gophers

Oak Hill Academy (Va.) four-star swingman Keyontae Johnson, one of the most athletic players in the 2018 class, is making an official visit to the Gophers this weekend.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior was a walking highlight-reel in the Nike EYBL this summer playing for Boo Williams AAU program. Johnson’s 41-inch vertical leap and 6-foot-11 wingspan give him the physical tools to translate well to the next level. 

FloHoops photo

FloHoops photo

Johnson has also made official visits to Wichita State, Georgia Tech and Texas Tech.

“He’s a big-time finisher with good size,” Johnson’s AAU coach Boo Williams said this week. “He can guard multiple positions. He’s definitely a guy who can be an asset to your program. He can do a lot of different things both offensively and defensively.”

Johnson, a Norfolk, Va. native, played for IMG Academy in Florida and averaged 11 points per game last season. He averaged nine points and five rebounds in the Nike EYBL circuit this spring and summer.

Gophers coach Richard Pitino and assistant Kimani Young both went to Oak Hill to see Johnson practice and met with his family during an in-home visit in Norfolk.  

“He’s a great kid with a good family, which you can’t take for granted nowadays,” Williams said. “He’s more of a small forward, but I think he can also play (stretch power forward). Lot of games he gave us a lift offensively, but he can lock down defensively. There were games he was our best rebounding the ball. He can just do a lot of different things. He would fit well in Minnesota’s system. Coach Pitino has done a great job up there.”

The Gophers are hosting both Johnson and South Kent School (Conn.) point guard Anthony Nelson on official visits this weekend. But there’s only one scholarship left to fill out the 2018 recruiting class that includes Daniel Oturi, Jarvis Thomas and Gabe Kalscheur.