By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
In high school sports, there is always that one player who redefines the word ‘leader’ on the team. It is the one who can lead with their voice and their actions equally, demanding the players around them to play to their potential or passed it. A leader is one who can take the big shot when it needs to be made, and doesn’t mind the scrutiny or pain of missing the attempt.
For the McKinney North Lady Bulldog basketball team, senior Alexis Mason has redefined what it means to be a leader with her record-setting performances on the court and her ability to take underclassmen under her wings, and groom them to become future varsity difference makers.
Mason began playing basketball in first grade, and despite dabbling with softball and cross-country, she had found her true love in the game of basketball. Her first real coach was her father, who demanded excellence from her daughter and taught her how to play the game correctly.
“My dad really pushed me,” said Mason, “so I ended up having to be really good at it.”
When Mason arrived at North, her main focus at school was not about the homework or tests her teachers were handing out, but rather how practice would go later that afternoon.
“Freshman year, I really didn’t care about school,” said Mason. “I just liked to come for basketball and that was it.”
While Mason struggled to find motivation in the classroom, her exceptional play on the court earned her a roster spot on the varsity team. She was an integral part of the Lady Bulldogs regional finals run in 2010, when she averaged nearly 10 points per game during the playoffs.
Mason would continue to have success on the varsity level for the next two seasons, increasing her points per game nearly three points each year. She averaged 15 points per game last season as a junior, as well as lead the team in assists and three-pointers. Heading into her final season as a high school basketball player, Mason was facing three or four offers to continue to play basketball at the collegiate level. After much debate and conversations with family members, she chose Abilene Christian University.
“I started looking there my sophomore year,” said Mason. “I really liked it there, but then their coach got fired, so the school kind of went down on my list. But when I was out for camp there a year ago, the coaches were really nice and the campus was pretty cool.”
With her college plans under wraps and the basketball season fully underway, Mason said a lot has changed about who is she not only as a basketball player, but as a person as well.
“I think I have grown a lot in different areas,” she said. “I know my ball handling and my shot has gotten better, as well as my decision-making. I didn’t used to play that smart.”
When her head coach, Michael Oldham, caught wind of her final critique of herself, he was quick to chime in with his rebuttal.
“You used to play smart, you are just playing smarter,” said Oldham.
Off the court, Mason said she started to take school more seriously because college was getting closer and closer. With having had her in a class during her sophomore year, Oldham said he could attest to her change in classroom behavior.
“I have seen her classroom demeanor change dramatically,” said Oldham. “Like she said, she is starting to take school more seriously.”
Mason is averaging 14 PPG this season as the Lady Bulldogs have jumped out to a 3-0 record in District 13-4A and a 15-3 record overall. At seasons end, the senior point guard may finish with school records in points, assists, steals, and three-pointers. However, Oldham said that her statistical dominance wouldn’t be her lasting legacy at North.
“I think that the effects of her leadership will be more her legacy here more than the fact that she is going to have her name all over the record board out there,” said Oldham. “She is going to have more points, assists, steals, three-pointers; she is going to have practically every record we have.
“But her legacy is going to be the freshmen and sophomores she has mentored her over the past two years, because we are probably going to be even better next year. That will be a testament to what she has helped do here.”
One of the issues Oldham has had to discuss with Mason has been about her belief that she comes across as a “ball hog” on the court. According to her coach, she has had to be reminded on several occasions that he expects her to shoot the ball whenever she gets a good look or the team needs a big basket.
“I think it is just her personality,” said Oldham. “She is just that type of kid and she just doesn’t want to come off like that. But she has a list of situations where I expect her to have the ball or take a shot, so that’s just been a part of her progression as a player.
“When she goes to ACU, she is going to be the best player they put on the floor next year. She is going to have to be the kind of person in college to take over games when it needs to be done.”
While the Lady Bulldogs may have future success in the upcoming years, there will be no replacing the presence that Mason has on and off the court for the program.
She has made her name synonymous with the word “leader” in McKinney North lore.