Chattanooga basketball coach Will Wade has a lofty goal for senior forward Z. Mason.
“I want him to lead [the Southern Conference] in rebounding,” Wade said. “Actually, he should lead the conference in rebounding, and be toward the top nationally, too. If he does that, it’ll speak to his effort and hustle. I’m really harping on him to be the best rebounder he can be—on the defensive end and the offensive end.”
Harping Wade has done, but apparently, as of the Mocs’ media day last Thursday, he hadn’t shared with Mason that whole leading the SoCon in rebounding thing. Mason was a bit surprised to hear about it, but he quickly warmed up to the idea.
“That’s a compliment from coach Wade, to hear him say he thinks I can lead the league,” Mason said. “I’ve worked hard enough this summer and all the preseason to put myself in position to be able to do that. And I know that’s what my team needs from me.”
One glance at the former Ole Miss tight end is enough to see that Mason wasn’t kidding about hard work. He’s leaner than ever, but heavier, too, and a lot stronger, thanks to months working with new strength coach Greg Goldin. What the 6-foot-5 Mason gives up to opponents in size, he’ll gain back in being quicker, and in a lot of cases, stronger.
“I weighed about 228 before,” Mason said. “Now I’m at 235. It’s muscle. I can feel it when I run, when we’re playing. I feel a lot better. Looking back after the whole process, and now heading into [preseason] practice, I’m glad I bought into it.
“The goal from the beginning was for us to be in the best shape we can be in. Because the plan is to pressure and tire out the other team and still be ready for more.”
Mason fits the mold of the type of player who has typically played well in the SoCon—an undersized four man with a multiple offensive package.
“He’s in the Kyle Hines mold,” Wade said, referring to the former UNC Greesboro player who was the SoCon player of the year in 2006-07 and averaged 18.2 points and 8.7 rebounds over his four-year career. “Z’s kind of an undersized utility player who’s been very successful in the league.”
If Mason could average 18 points and close to nine boards this season, Wade couldn’t reasonably ask for more. Mason has put in the time and will be the Mocs’ obvious go-to guy, so those numbers are possible.
“The whole preseason was designed to get me better,” Mason said. “We’ve been working on all kinds of stuff over the summer. And the addition of [student assistant and former Moc star] Johnny Taylor has really helped me. He knows the game and can relate as a player. He’s definitely helped my skills.”
Wade’s mission with Mason has been to get him to play harder than he ever has .
“He’s one of those guys, if you get him to pour it all out and lay it on the line, he’s gonna have a great year,” Wade said. “He’s unbelievably talented, and he can score in a ton of different ways. He’s made strides with giving more consistent effort.
“He knows that’s what it’s gonna take for him to have a great senior year, for us to be successful as a team and for him to play after college.”
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.