Growing up in Petersburg, Virginia, near Richmond, Frank Mason remembers when a recognizable basketball star might come and talk to young, awestruck children.
Much like what the former University of Kansas star and current NBA player did Thursday afternoon, meeting with members of the Independence branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City on Leslie Street.
“They were not at the stage I'm at; it was maybe a local high school or college star,” said Mason, who recently finished his second pro season with the Sacramento Kings. Still, though, “Most of the kids in the community looked up to those guys.”
Mason, 25, was in town for a charity game later in the evening – the annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic in Eudora, Kansas, that raised money for children fighting cancer and other life-altering ailments.
He certainly had the kids' attention Thursday, as he imparted some advice for a few minutes before running through some basic ball handling and dribbling drills before some shooting games.
His message: Take advantage of every opportunity and make the most of what's given. Work hard in the classroom, or else other opportunities might not be possible.
“That's the only way to get somewhere, is to put in the time,” he told them.
A simple message, yes. But as Waymond King, senior programs and operations director for Boys & Girls Club, said, mom or dad might say the same thing a dozen times and it doesn't register, but give someone with some star appeal a chance to say the same thing, and it sticks.
Being just two years removed from his senior season at KU, when he was the consensus national player of the year, several of the kids probably remember watching Mason on TV.
“For him to come and talk, that means a lot to them,” King said.
King said that when Mason attended last year's Rivalry Renewed game between former KU and Missouri players at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, the Rush brothers (Kareem and Brandon) helped put him in touch with Boys & Girls Club.
Later this summer, on Aug. 3, Mason and friends will host a celebrity softball game at T-Bones Stadium next to the Kansas Speedway to benefit the National Youth Foundation and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City.
“Giving back is always important,” Mason said. “At this age, I had someone do that for me, and I didn't realize how important it was until I got older. There's a lot of things that are bigger than basketball.”