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.