KANSAS CITY, MO. — While senior guard Devonte' Graham produced a double-double (25 points, 10 rebounds) in Kansas’ 93-87 exhibition victory over Missouri on Sunday, Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason III took to Twitter to hype up Graham’s game-high 25 points, which included six three-pointers.
3tae Graham 🔥— Frank Mason (@FrankMason0) October 22, 2017
Having formed one of the nation’s best backcourts last season alongside Graham at Kansas, Mason must now watch from afar as his good friend takes over the reins of a team that he led last year.
Sunday's renewed Border War at Sprint Center in Kansas City had a different feel. Rather than the intense hatred of years past, the 2017 Showdown for Relief had one goal: charity.
But despite the geographical distance between the two players, their friendship has not wavered since Mason made the move from Lawrence to Sacramento.
“Text, Snapchat, Instagram, everything,” Graham said during Kansas' media day Tuesday. “I talk to him about the friends. I saw one time he posted about he was playing Dallas, and Dirk Nowitzki is his favorite player, so we talked about that.”
It is a friendship that began about three years ago, when Graham joined the program his freshman year. Despite not forming an immediate camaraderie, it only took about two to three months for the pair to form a bond thanks to their competitiveness on the court.
“The first couple of months we were big-time competitors. I think that’s what made us even closer. He knew that I came in wanting to be a competitor, not just going to lay down and give him the spot,” Graham said. “I think that’s what helped us play together, because we both knew we had that dog in us and just wanted to win.”
Although both players earned minutes their first year together, it was their second year playing together at Kansas that really showed what they could do.
Both players averaged over 30 minutes and 11 points per game in 2015-16, and then both started all 36 games in the Kansas backcourt in the 2016-17 season.
With the loss of Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson to the NBA, junior guard Lagerald Vick has worked to round out his game to be a star player for the Jayhawks this season.
Graham attributes their good friendship and competitiveness outside of the spotlight to how well they played together on the court.
But when it comes to hearing about life in the NBA, Graham prefers to talk to guys like former Iowa State player Monte Morris, now with the Denver Nuggets, or Donovan Mitchell who spent two years at Louisville before being drafted by the Utah Jazz.
With Mason, he prefers to keep the NBA talk aside, knowing that there are several dozens of people who clamor to hear him talk about his professional career every day. When he does talk to Mason about the NBA, it is usually congratulating him about a recent game.
“I think like one game he had like 17, I text him after the game, saying good game and stuff. Being Frank, he don’t like to talk about himself too much. He was like ‘Man I didn’t even play that good,’ blah, blah blah, but he had 17 [points] and like six rebounds,” Graham said, laughing. “He’s still being aggressive and being him.”
Early in the draft scouting process, the Sacramento Kings took a liking to former Kansas guard Frank Mason III. On Thursday, the Kings made Mason the newest member of their organization.
With just one year left at Kansas, and having already tested the waters of the NBA draft, Graham acknowledges that one day he may be back on the court with Mason, but wearing a different color jersey.
“I think it would be great, definitely be fun,” Graham said. “Two teammates who played together for three years go against each other in the NBA — that would be great.”
But before that moment comes, Graham will now lead a Kansas team that he said he has always felt like the leader of, whether playing alongside Mason or not.
— Edited by Danya Issawi