Makai Mason testing European waters

  • Makai Mason drives the lane for Germany in a recent basketball game against the Ukraine. contributed photo

  • German guard Makai Mason looks for room to move against the Ukraine in a recent basketball game in Europe. contributed photo

Recorder Staff
Published: 8/16/2016 11:13:01 PM

After making a name for himself in the United States during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this past March, Greenfield native Makai Mason is now turning heads overseas.

The Yale University junior guard will spend the next month playing for the German men’s national team when the squad plays a host of “friendlies” while beginning the process toward qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Many folks will remember Mason’s March Madness performance, scoring a school-record 31 points to help the 12th-seeded Bulldogs upset fifth-seeded Baylor, 79-75. That performance helped make Mason one of the most talked about college basketball players over the first weekend of the tournament, earning him national exposure.

Mason then declared for the NBA draft, using a new rule that allows undergraduates to go through the draft process and get feedback from NBA teams, with the option to return to NCAA competition as long as they don’t hire an agent. In May, Mason decided to forego the draft and is returning to Yale this fall.

But before he returns to Yale, where he averaged 16 points and dished out nearly four assists per game last season, Mason is playing for Team Germany. He learned that he qualified for the team early this summer. His mother, Jody Sieben, was born in Mainz, Germany, and when she moved to the United States, she never naturalized. According to Mason’s father, Dan, it was nothing Sieben planned on. She just never went through the process.

Upon realizing this, the Masons contacted the German consulate in Boston and Makai had do go through a questionairre about his lineage. After completing that, it was concluded that he did qualify to play for Germany.

Once they realized he had German citizenship, the Masons contacted the Deutscher Basketball Bund (which oversees the national team in Germany) and eventually spoke to head coach Chris Fleming, an American who was also watching the NCAA Tournament five months ago and remembered Mason. Fleming told the family that he would love to have Mason on the team, but he would probably not be able to go through the process of obtaining his passport and all the proper paperwork in time to play this summer, since the process usually takes two or three months. That did not deter the Masons, and two days later, Makai had his passport.

Unfortunately, Germany did not qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, so Mason didn’t get a chance to compete in Rio. Instead, he joined the team in July and began preparing for a slate of about 13 to 14 games, which would take him into mid-September. He also had to get a leniency from Yale, allowing him to show up two weeks late to school, which the university granted.

The German team will play a number of “friendly” games in the next couple of weeks, which means the games don’t count toward anything, much the same way that national soccer teams play friendlies. Germany will take part in ERGO SuperCup — a prestigious German tournament — from Friday through Sunday, and will play Russia, Poland and Finland over the three days. Then, beginning on Aug. 31, Germany begins playing games to qualify for the European Championships, which is the first step toward qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Germany is the favorite in its bracket, which includes Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands.

Mason was flown to Germany from New York on German basketball’s dime, and the team has been putting him up in a hotel for the two months he’s there. While the other players on the team either play professionally in the NBA or in Europe, Mason is the lone collegiate player, according to his father. Still, he has averaged 15 to 20 minutes per game through his first five games. In his first game, which came back on July 30 against Ukraine, Mason, who wears jersey No. 1, scored 6 points. He followed that up with 4 against Finland before being held scoreless against Estonia, a game in which he suffered a minor elbow injury, which limited his time. He then scored 2 points against England, before putting up his best numbers on Sunday, when he scored 10 points in a 79-74 win over Portugal. Germany is 3-2 in the five games that Mason has been with the team.

“He has really enjoyed it,” his father said.

Mason has had to make some “overseas adjustments,” including the 24-second shot clock, which is six seconds shorter than the 30-second clock used in the NCAA. Also, when a team secures an offensive rebound, the clock does not reset all the way, but goes back to 14 seconds.

“That’s why they have a lot of motion and sets in Europe, because you have to,” Dan Mason said. “That’s why Europeans off the ball are always moving. You don’t have a lot of time to set up an offense.”

According to Dan Mason, German home games can be live-streamed on the DBB-TV station on Do a search on YouTube to locate the official station. Included there is highlights from the team, as well as player-interviews, including one with Mason.


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