Minnesota coach Richard Pitino has touted freshman Nate Mason as a player who could step in to take big minutes and immediately contribute to the veteran backcourt, particularly with the mature guard's defensive ability.

Mason, a Georgia native, has a good chance to be first man off the bench as he's capable of backing up either point guard DeAndre Mathieu or shooting guard Andre Hollins.

A quick conversation with the newcomer:

How has it been to come up behind veteran Andre and DeAndre, and have the ability to learn from them.
It's been great. They've been really helpful with answering questions and giving advice. That's the best thing I can get from them: leadership.

What has been the biggest transition for you?
Probably being away from home. I wanted to go far away, but I had to think about it. Now, I miss my family, I miss my mom, I miss my dad, so that's the biggest transition I think. I talk to them a lot. They send a care package almost every week. Things from home, sometimes they send me notecards.

What about on the court?
Probably the speed. In high school, it wasn't as fast as it is now. Dealing with a guy like coach Pitino, you've got to adjust very quickly. So that's the thing I think.

How has it been adjusting to Pitino's coaching style?
He's all about winning. There is no doubt about it. He's a young coach, fired up, chip on his shoulder, and that's the best type of coach to have. All he wants to do is win. And that instills that in our mindset.

Do you feel like you fit the new system?
Definitely. I like to play fast, he likes to play fast. I'm just here to get us in the best situation possible.

Do you see more similarities in your game with Big Dre [Andre Hollins] or Little Dre [DeAndre Mathieu]?
I don't know, I've never really thought about it. But if I would have to answer, I'd probably say I'm more of a driver [like Mathieu], but I like to stop and shoot sometimes. It's kind of different.

Who's faster -- you or Mathieu?
DeAndre of course. DeAndre is faster.

Going against him, a guy like that in the press, how beneficial is that for your development?
For sure, going against one of the top guards in the Big Ten, it gives me the opportunity to get better every day. Plus, he's a senior, he's teaching me and stuff while he goes along, so I'm just here for the experience.

What your No. 1 personal goal?
Be the best teammate possible. Do all the little things to help our team be successful

Are you happy with where your weight is now?
I came in 173 and I went up to 185, he wanted me to gain some weight. Now I've been at a steady 185 for about a month now, so I think that's the weight I'm going to be playing at.