NAIA Player Spotlight: Mason Walters – University of Jamestown
As we start off the year with our first article of the season we put focus on one of the BEST players in the NAIA for next season in Jamestown 6’9 Sophomore Forward, Mason Walters. The pro scouts have already taken notice and we have talked to several of them about the big fella from North Dakota. They love his game and while he will need to continue to develop his game from out on the perimeter to have a real shot at the NBA, the fact of the matter is that, headed into year three, Mason is a legit candidate for NAIA Player of the Year for this season.
Success isn’t new to Mason though. As a High School Senior, he helped lead Jamestown High School to a 27-0 record and a the 2019 North Dakota Class A State Championship. His amazing campaign helped him earn 2019 North Dakota Mr. Basketball and North Dakota Gatorade Player of the Year honors. Prior to his Senior season though, he held just three offers. It was the hometown college coach, Danny Neville and the rest of the Jimmies coaching staff though that made him a priority in recruiting. The culture and family atmosphere that he felt with the players and coaches is what ultimately led him to stay home and play for the Jimmies.
It was a win, win decision for both parties as the Jamestown men’s basketball team got one of the best NAIA players in the country and Mason got the chance to play and be an impact player immediately. He took advantage of playing right away as a Freshman as he was Honorable Mention All-Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) as well as GPAC Freshman of the Year! His greatest growth though, as it is with most players, was the summer between his Freshman and Sophomore campaigns.
This past season, as a Sophomore, Mason averaged 21.97ppg, 11.65rpg both of which led the GPAC. While the numbers are good, it is even more impressive when you combine the fact that the GPAC hosts two other players that are definitely in the conversation as the NAIA’s top big men, in Trey Brown of Morningside and Alex Van Kalsbeek of Northwestern. The toughness of the GPAC, along with having to play against two of the best “Bigs” in the country helped both Mason and Jamestown make a deep run to the NAIA Quarterfinals where they ran into the buzzsaw of the eventual National Champions, Shawnee State.
That Quarterfinal game was a lot of fun to watch though and gave us a great matchup between two more great NAIA big men in EJ Onu and Mason. EJ, at 6’11, is leaving his name in the NBA Draft and no matter if he gets drafted or not, will have some great G-League and European League opportunities. Mason came ready to play early in that game, going right at college basketballs top shot blocker and finishing the game with 20 points and 6 rebounds while holding Onu to 5 points on 0-4 shooting. EJ did have 12 rebounds and 9 blocks in the game, but it was the play of Tournament MVP James Jones who finished with a game high 31 points to help lead Shawnee to a 76-65 win to advance to the NAIA Fab Fow
Mason Said “Being able to play against EJ Onu and find success against him was very fun as a competitor especially now, being able to see what he is doing against some of the guys who are more than likely to be drafted next year – It is pretty cool. I think our team getting to play against Shawnee State and some of the other highly-regarded teams at the national tournament was very beneficial for us – to be able to see that that’s the level that we want to be at, and I think it is helping us work that much harder as a team this summer.”
Mason would finish his Sophomore One season as the GPAC Player of the Year, 1st Team All-American and being named to the NAIA National Tournament 1st Team. While his personal resume is already becoming something special, his main goals for this upcoming year is for the Jimmies to make an even deeper run for a NAIA National Championship. With Trey Brown electing to return to Morningside for the upcoming year, the GPAC is sure to be a battle once again! Mason wouldn’t have it any other way though. He knows that a lot of people overlook NAIA basketball, but encourages those players who are on the fence of signing with a NAIA program to spend the time watching some of the games from the National Tournament last year and how great the players and teams were that made Kansas City. He says that people would be extremely surprised that the gap between the different levels of college basketball is not as large as they might expect. He himself was one of those kids who had offers to play at bigger levels, but luckily for him he had a NAIA in his hometown that he was able to watch and learn from. He really encourages others to go watch games and talk to former players before making the decision to pass on a NAIA program. If you are in GPAC territory, you should make it a point to go watch the Jimmies play this upcoming season. Not only are the teams elite, but the GPAC also hosts some of the top individual talent in the NAIA as well.
No matter what the 2021-22 season holds for Mason and the Jimmies, it’s safe to say that as long as they stay healthy, the Jimmies will be amongst the NAIA’s best! As mentioned, the GPAC will host some real heavyweight battles again this upcoming season, but the Jimmies should be a Top 10 team to start the season. Mason is pumped to get all of his teammates back to campus and for them and the coaching staff to get back to work every day in practice, working towards their goals. He is very thankful for his former and current teammates for always pushing him to get better and to Coach Neville and staff for giving him the chance to be a Jimmie. He knows the staff keeps pushing him to become the player they believed he could be when they recruited him in high school. This is lining up to be another special season for the Jamestown Jimmies and we are looking forward to watching Mason and Jamestown take the court again!