Frank Mason III will be taking the floor for his country.
The Kings’ reserve point guard was one of 12 players named to the USA Men’s Basketball World Cup qualifying team Monday.
The squad is comprised mostly of players who have just one year NBA experience. In terms of games played, Mason is among the leaders. With 52 NBA games played, he ranks third on the roster behind Dwayne Bacon, who played in 53 games with the Charlotte Hornets, and Henry Ellenson, the only player to play in two NBA seasons. Ellenson has appeared in 57 games for the Detroit Pistons.
Only two players on the roster have no NBA experience: Bryce Alford and Travis Trice.
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The team will be coached by Jeff Van Gundy, who led USA to a 5-0 record and the gold medal at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup and a 5-1 mark in the first round of the FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying. The second round tips off Friday with a game against Uruguay at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.
“With our September second-round games marking the start of the most critical part of the World Cup qualifying, I think it is imperative for us to look for players who possess mental fortitude, who are tough and who have experience,” Van Gundy said last week in a release from USA Basketball. “By looking to players who have played in the NBA and internationally, I’m hoping we have the experience required to win and qualify the United States for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.”
Mason showed that toughness in summer league, which impressed his coach during the California Classic at Golden 1 Center.
“He’s got a lot of bulldog in him, and when he really, really wants to, you’ll see him just come up with the ball a few times,” Kings summer league coach Larry Lewis told The Bee in July. “He’ll just take it and … he can be a little mean and really get after it defensively.”
Mason said he takes pride in his defense.
“I really hate when someone scores on me, and I take it personal,” Mason said. “I just want to make the (offensive player) feel me every possession and make it as hard for him as I can every possession.”
The rest of the team consists of Reggie Hearn (three games with the Pistons); Isaiah Hicks (18 games with the New York Knicks); Dakari Johnson (31 games with the Oklahoma City Thunder); Ben Moore (two games with the Indiana Pacers); Chasson Randle (26 games with the Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers); Jameel Warney (three games with the Dallas Mavericsk); and Derrick White (17 games with the San Antonio Spurs).
Van Gundy’s assistants will be Mike Miller, coach of the NBA G League’s Westchester Knicks, and former Georgetown University coach John Thompson III.
Following Friday’s game, Team USA will play Panama on Sept. 17 in Panama City.