Mason leaves team

When Dwyane Wade decided to terminate his collegiate eligibility and enter the 2003 NBA draft, Marquette hoops fans craved a player who could fill the abyss created by Wade's early departure and keep the program above mediocrity.

Last season, Golden Eagle backers thought they had found their man in Dameon Mason. Even though he was just a freshman, Mason's unbridled athleticism and palpable potential for greatness made him the heir apparent to Wade.

It was believed to be only a matter of time before the runner-up for the 2002-'03 Mr. Basketball Award in Illinois would become the team's star and lead it back to the third weekend of the NCAA tournament.

It is possible Mason will one day fulfill those lofty expectations; it just will not be in a Golden Eagles' jersey.

The Marquette Athletics Department ended weeks of speculation when it confirmed Tuesday that Mason, a native of Kansas City, Mo., has informed coaches he will transfer at the completion of the semester.

After sitting out a year, Mason, who refused to comment at the suggestion of his family, will have two years of eligibility left at whichever school he chooses to attend.

Mason is the fourth and final member of the 2003-'04 freshmen recruiting class — head coach Tom Crean's first recruiting class after leading Marquette to the 2003 Final Four — to transfer out of Marquette.

The other members of Mason's class to leave Marquette are James Matthews (now attending Eastern Michigan), Carlton Christian (Central Florida) and Brandon Bell (Detroit). In all, six players have transferred out of Marquette in the past two seasons.

Mason's move would have been hard to fathom at the end of last season or even the beginning of this one. After being named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team a year ago, Mason got off to a quick start in his sophomore season.

He recorded 22 points against Sam Houston State in the first game of the Pepsi Blue and Gold Classic, and on Nov. 27, 2004, dropped a season-high 26 points at Oakland.

His development faltered as the season progressed in part because of injuries to starting point guard Travis Diener that forced him to play out of position.

Mason finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 11.9 points per game, and second in rebounding at 5.6 per game.

But he never grew into the lock-down defender Crean envisioned him to be, and he turned the ball over at a maddening rate of 2.9 times per game.

News of Mason's departure was offset by the announcement that Matt Mortensen would forgo a two-year Mormon mission to play for Marquette in 2005-'06, and the oral commitment Jamil Lott made to play at Marquette nest year.

Mortensen, a 6-foot-6 forward from Provo, Utah had originally planned to enroll at Marquette as a 21-year-old freshman in the fall of 2007 following his mission.

But Mortensen, who was named to the Class 4A all-state first team, had a change of heart and will join fellow freshmen Dominic James, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal on campus in the fall.

"I've changed personally. It's not the right thing to do now," said Mortensen, who added he will likely go on a mission when he is older.

Assistant coach Jeff Strohm said Mortensen's decision came as a pleasant surprise to the coaching staff because of his promising future.

"He's a great shooter, and he's got the potential to be a tremendous shooter," Strohm said. "He could develop into a defensive stopper."

Lott, a 6-foot-7 power forward, averaged 16.6 points and eight rebounds a game at North Dakota State College of Science. He helped his team to the consolation championship at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I tournament and was named a second team All-American. Before playing for the Wildcats, Lott was teammates with redshirt sophomore Dan Fitzgerald on the Howard Pulley AAU team in Minneapolis.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on April 21 2005.