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March 31, 2017

Oscar Robertson

Ed Graney

Frank Mason III

Phoenix, Arizona

USBWA Oscar Robertson Trophy Player of the Year

THE MODERATOR: This is the USBWA Oscar Robertson Player of the Year news conference. We're joined by the USBWA president from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Ed Graney.

ED GRANEY: Good morning. We're here to present the Oscar Robertson Trophy, voted on by the USBWA membership each year. The award is given annually to the Player of the Year in college basketball and is considered the oldest award of its kind, with the first winner being Oscar himself in 1959. Just to prove he was pretty good, he also won it in 1960.

The trophy was named for Oscar in 1998 in honor of his incredible career and his continuing efforts to promote the game of basketball.

I'm not saying anything most people here don't know, but the reason you hear so much this year about Russell Westbrook and James Harden is the man to my left, a Hall of Famer who was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history and who defined the term triple-double.

Oscar was an NBA champion and NBA MVP, 12-time All-Star. One of the 50 greatest players ever. He averaged 33.8 points for his career at the University of Tennessee, the third highest in college history. Set 14 NCAA and 19 school records.

Before we introduce this winner, I'd like to ask Oscar to say a few words about the trophy and his memories.

OSCAR ROBERTSON: University of Cincinnati.

ED GRANEY: Did I say Cincinnati?

OSCAR ROBERTSON: May have said something else. But that's all right. (Laughter) This is a great day to be here, and I'm happy to be involved with this again.

I want to congratulate this player here, Frank Mason III, twice, one being the first Kansas player to win this award. Wonderful. And second on winning the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Award, which is voted on by a lot of writers around the country. And I really do believe it's going to be a unanimous selection for all the players that are here.

It's wonderful to be involved with a young person like this because -- I'll tell you a story -- years ago there was a player named Kevin Durant, and he came out of school and was Player of the Year. And his coach was very unhappy. I said, Coach, don't be unhappy. He's going to go on to be better and greater. And look at him today. I think you'll be in the same situation.

I think you're only going to get better. Because as you get older, you'll get more mature. And you're going to see your basketball game come to you like you're getting up out of the bed in the morning. And that's a wonderful thing.

I think it's great that you're able to win this award. I think you've had a great season. Saw you play in several basketball games, and I think you're a hell of a basketball player.

And I think that anytime you get young people like this to win awards like this, it's wonderful. It's just a testament of the Kansas program that you have today, and I'm wonderful to be involved in this. As I said before, I did win this three times, by the way.

ED GRANEY: '59, '60 and '61?

OSCAR ROBERTSON: Won it three years in a row. But you know it's a funny thing, when I won the award, you didn't get anything like this at all.

When they informed you that you won the award, they sent a letter to your athletic director. He would call you and say, "By the way, you're named Player of the Year."

So it's a little different now. But I'm happy for you. And congratulations again.

FRANK MASON III: Thanks, man.

ED GRANEY: Oscar is talking to our winner, senior point guard. He's as consistent and as clutch a performer as college basketball knew this year.

Averaging 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds while playing. He played almost 90 percent of his team's minutes. So that tells you the durability Frank had.

He led his team to 31 wins, a record 13th straight Big 12 regular season championship, which I think is still one of the most incredible stats that doesn't get enough recognition and a spot in the Elite Eight.

Officially, on behalf of the USBWA we'd like to congratulate the winner of the Oscar Robertson Trophy for the 2016-17 season from Kansas, Frank Mason.

FRANK MASON III: First, I want to thank Oscar. I saw a few highlights of yours. You're really good. You're a legend.

It means a lot to hear great things come out of your mouth about me. And it's just motivating me for the future. But other than that, I just want to thank my family, my incredible coaches, teammates, the fans, and everyone that voted for me. I really appreciate you guys. And I'm just thankful for this opportunity.


Q. Explain the significance of winning this trophy after being named AP Player of the Year?
FRANK MASON III: It's just surreal. Yesterday was a great moment for me and my family. And here we are today with another major trophy. And it's just a great feeling to see all the hard work has paid off for me and my family. And it's something that will be really special to me for the rest of my life.

Q. Mr. Robertson, you mentioned how you were notified when you were a player that you won Player of the Year through a letter sent to, notice sent to the athletic director. What else has changed over the years in college basketball? They still have to put a ball in a hole to score points. But has anything evolved in the game or has the athlete evolved, or is it really nothing different than when it was when you played?
OSCAR ROBERTSON: No, I think the athletes have gotten much better. As you can see by Frank Mason here, can shoot the basketball, and he has a real command of the game.

The thing about basketball is that, especially when you play guard, which I'm happy you won this because you're a guard. So was I. I think that you have to -- he understands the game of basketball.

Unlike many years ago, where you just did things that the coach told you, because the game changes so much. And when you're on the game, they may go through a 2-3 zone or 1-3-1 zone.

And as a guard you have to recognize that and get your players ready to go. I think he did a great job doing that.

But the PR has gotten better over the years. Electronic media has gotten much better. And I think this is tremendous, because the more they talk about Frank Mason, the higher you're going to go in the draft.

So let them talk about you all they want, because it means a lot. It means a lot for you and your family. I'm happy and proud for you, to be honest.

Q. I know it's an individual award, talk about your teammates and how working with your teammates helps you to make your achievement getting this award?
FRANK MASON III: If it wasn't for my teammates, I'm not sure if I'd be here. Those guys were unbelievable all year. I think they help put me in position for this award and I couldn't ask for any better teammates than those guys.

OSCAR ROBERTSON: When you talk about teammates -- and I know I've been through it many, many times -- look at Frank, teammates are great. But they look for you to be a leader and look for you to, when times get tough, when the score is tied 100-100 and you've got seconds on the clock, they throw the ball to Frank. Some players don't want it in that particular situation.

And you should be honored they throw you the ball, because I think it means a lot that they have respect for you, enough for you, to throw you the ball because they know you're going to be successful for them.

But this is all being on a team, and teams are made of different people, different personalities, whatever. Not everyone on the team was the same. Some players cannot do the same things as others. This is why having a team, I thought you had a great team this year, it means a lot. But there's someone on that team that takes care of everything else for you, that they look for you, and they look for Frank.

Q. Oscar, you kind of burst on to the scene first way back with Crispus Attucks, who won a state championship last week. For you, how much of a thrill was that? Did you happen to be at the game when they won?
OSCAR ROBERTSON: Yes, I was there. It was great. When you're young and things happen to you, you don't understand quite a bit. But as you get older you realize how important it is to you to win a championship that everyone's trying to win. It's unique.

But when we won it, we were just happy about the game itself. I think that as time goes on in sports and everything, sports have been tremendous for America, to be honest, look at the Olympics and what it does, how it brings people together, how sports have really led to integration in schools and whatnot. I think it's wonderful.

And when I saw these players win again, I was very happy because they don't understand right now what it means to them. But eventually, when they get older they are going to understand it.

And as I said before, to win something like this, when everyone is trying to win it and you realize you're the top dog in the field, it's wonderful.

THE MODERATOR: Ed has a question for Frank.

ED GRANEY: Frank, I think you're a terrific example of a lot of things. But also you're a terrific example out for kids that maybe are not on recruiting lists right away. They don't -- blow up in the summer and all of a sudden here are all the offers.

You worked for everything you've got. To go from that and not highly recruited, to get to Kansas, one of the most prestigious places ever in terms of college basketball, to win this award named after one of the greatest players ever, can you take us through that journey and how that feels and what kind of message you can send to kids right now who might not think there's a lot of chances out there for them but you're a great example there are?

FRANK MASON III: I just happen to have the right guys in my life. It started at a young age with my AAU coaches. And they saw something special in me.

And they just took care of me for a while. And put me in position to be successful. And I'm just thankful for them. And they was great role models for me.

And to the younger kids that's not really getting recognized or recruited, I just say just keep working, just take whatever opportunity you have to get recognized and for people to see your talents and their time will come. And just have to believe in themselves and know what they're capable of and just make the right choices and great things will happen.

Q. Ed, with so many great players out there, what is the process and how difficult is it to whittle it down to just one?
ED GRANEY: It's really difficult. We have several districts throughout the country that are represented by writers throughout the country in the USBWA. They're all allowed to vote district members for this award, it's for our All-American team.

I will say this, it was funny because I thought this year a lot of teams held the number one spot. There wasn't like the obvious great undefeated team that everyone said they're going to win it.

And I think with some teams that are at the Final Four, you've seen the parity. And teams that pay -- probably at least a couple that maybe people didn't think could get here.

But for this specific award, I'll tell you -- I think Joe doesn't want me breaking any rules -- but if it wasn't unanimous it was about as unanimous as you can get. It wasn't surprising. He had an incredible season. But there are a lot of guys who had good seasons. But he obviously set himself apart throughout our districts.

A lot of times districts geographically are going to vote for the kid in their region because they don't get to see a lot of kids in other regions; they're covering games, they don't get to see people on TV, especially in the west, so late at night. And people obviously see Frank, he's on a team you see a lot.

But in this instance, as with our Coach of the Year, Henry Iba Coach of the Year, Mark Few, there was very little discussion.

We were preparing for a very long conference call. And I think a lot of us were pleased because we had a lot to cover, that the conference call went very quick. These were very unanimous decisions, and it's a credit to him and the season he had.


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