by Matt Park, UA Communication Services
Numerous reasons explain why so many fans invest their time, energy, and emotion into sports.
Ask the 14,000 Arizona basketball fans who fill the McKale Center, and each one will offer a different story of how they got there.
Living in Tucson will be one answer. Some will refer to the style of play from a past team or player that caught their adoration. It might be Arizona’s basketball culture, forged by McKale’s diverse range of characters such as Ooh Aah Man.
It might be from your time as a student at the University of Arizona. Then, there’s the thrill of your first game – the time when you discover the pleasure of collective chanting, witty heckling, deafening celebrations and holding your breath between the shot and the swoosh.
These tales are unique, unexpected, romantic, and they can be passed down by family, like Arizona freshman guard Trey Mason.
“I’ve been an Arizona fan ever since I was born,” Trey said. “I’ve grown up loving the program, so to be a part of it and to contribute, even if it means from a smaller role, it feels really cool.”
Trey’s father, Harvey Mason Jr., played guard at the University of Arizona under Lute Olson from 1986-1990. During his playing career, Harvey Mason Jr. was part of a team that earned three Pac-10 titles and advanced to the program’s first ever Final Four.
As a result, Trey naturally adopted his father’s love for basketball, and now, his Alma Mater.
“To be in the same program that he was in, it means a lot to me,” Trey said. “He definitely was the one who put a basketball in my hands and gave me a chance to learn the game. I’ve loved it ever since I was three years old.”
Surrounded by the Arizona family from an early age, Trey was able to form relationships with past and present players and coaches. It allowed him to see the deep appreciation that players had for a Player’s Program.
“Growing up, I got to hang out with Coach Olson a lot,” Trey said. “I learned a lot from him and to hear what he had to say to me was a special experience.”
Former UA player, Miles Simon, also gave Trey a taste of Wildcat basketball when Simon coached Trey in the AAU circuit.
“It was great to be coached by him,” Trey said. “I’ve known him for a while and he was one of the best coaches that I’ve ever had. He’s really smart and drives you to become better.”
These learning experiences provided guidance for Trey’s game, but it was his father’s continuing bond with his teammates that left a strong impression in Trey to want to wear the Red and Blue.
“I think it’s very cool that my dad still stays in touch with a lot of his teammates,” Trey said. “I’ve always admired how close he remained with his teammates even after their time playing. I felt going here will give me the same chance to make the same connections that he did.”
Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott and Kenny Lofton are just a few of the many teammates that Harvey Mason Jr. has maintained a tight bond with throughout the years. Their lasting friendships speak volumes about the obstacles that the players overcame and doing it at the highest level of college basketball. Trey became curious to find out what held the bond in these relationships for over two decades. His curiosity turned to determination.
Through their time on the court, Trey’s relationship with his father has also strengthened. Hours spent on the hardwood with the elder Mason teaching his son about the same attitudes and willingness that he acquired during his days under Coach Olson.
“His shooting ability is one area of my game that I try to model after,” Trey said. “He’s taught me how to shoot the ball and to have a perfect form, and to always work at it, that’s probably the biggest thing more than anything. The most important thing was just working hard and being in the gym every day and make sure no one was outworking you.”
As a result of his dedicated work ethic, Trey became a highly decorated player during his days at Loyola High School. Trey was named Loyola’s Most Valuable Player in 2010, 2011 and 2013. As a senior, Trey averaged 16 points per game and shot 42 percent beyond the arch, earning him first-team All-Mission league honors.
Like his father, Trey’s skill for sinking threes and overall shooting ability impressed college coaches, and among those, Arizona head coach Sean Miller saw potential in Trey’s game and wanted him to play for Arizona.
However, due to Arizona’s already talented and deep roster and top recruits, Trey knew that he wouldn’t be able to see much playing time during his freshman year. At the same time, several other colleges approached Trey, guaranteeing playing time.
“That was a big decision for me,” Trey said. “There were other schools that I could have gone to and played significant minutes. It was a decision I had to make – go to a smaller program and play significant minutes or come here and be part of something bigger.”
As Arizona’s hunt to go deep into March formulates, it is the contribution of players like Trey Mason that can play a key difference in conference play and postseason. Coach Miller can utilize Trey’s strengths in practice to match the strengths of opposing players, giving Trey the responsibility to help the team become familiar with upcoming opponents.
“I really accepted that and I wanted to help the team anyway I can,” Trey revealed. “Even if that means only doing it at practice, the experience that I’m going to get and the relationships that I’m going to build, just everything that my team and I are going to go through in the next four years is going to make everything worth it. Knowing that you’re helping the team even if it is through a smaller role is something that I’ve embraced.”
Trey’s positive outlook stems from the lessons that his father taught him on the court.
“He’s always told me that I could do whatever I want as long as I strive to be great at it,” Trey said. “He’s always pushed me at it and made sure I was working hard to be the best that I could be, but now, I need to push myself harder, not just for me, but for the team.”