Kansas State Email Header

Mason Schoen Follows Early Routine to Reach Dream of Playing for K-State MBB

March 2, 2018
By Corbin McGuire

Mason Schoen's routine as a freshman in college mirrored that of his childhood: Up before the sun with a basketball in his hand.

Growing up, it was at the urging of his father, Kelly, and at the side of his younger brother, Dalton. The workout always started with ball handling and transitioned to layups, midrange and then 3-point shooting, in that order.

As much as the routine was about becoming a skilled player, it was more about establishing a work ethic to create success in life. It was about learning how to pave a path from a dream toward a reality. For Schoen, that just happened to be in basketball.

"He just kind of showed us the path, that if you stick to this work ethic, anything can happen," Schoen said of his father. "And if you follow your dreams, who knows what can happen?'"

Schoen followed his dream, to play basketball at K-State, in a remarkable way. He not only made the dream into reality, the senior walk-on has also piggybacked his experiences with the Wildcats to help set up another dream of coaching basketball.

So when he thinks back to those early childhood mornings now, he can see that it was more than worth it.

"It just all resonates to the fact that hard work does pay off and if you do work hard enough, you will accomplish your dreams. Just to look back at the whole journey, it's made the destination quite wonderful," said Schoen, a walk-on and K-State's only senior who will be honored before Saturday's game against Baylor at 1 p.m. "It's always been my dream to play basketball here at K-State, the university that I love and grew up loving.

"To be on this team, to have the success that we've had this year and my last four years, it's been an absolute dream come true."

Rec Regular

A key piece for Blue Valley Northwest High School as a junior and senior, which included winning 48 of 50 games and finishing with an undefeated 6A state title run in 2013, Schoen turned down opportunities to play at smaller schools to come to K-State. To be clear, he had no opportunity to play for the Wildcats at the time.

"I chose late, actually in the summer of 2013, to just enroll here at K-State because my passion and love for K-State was a little too much and I didn't want to be anywhere else," Schoen, whose parents graduated from K-State, said. "So I came with the opportunity of hopefully walking on someday, but I didn't have it in my mindset that I had to do it. If it didn't work out, I would have realized that was not in God's plan for me."

Schoen did his best to make sure it did work out.

As a freshman, Schoen was out of bed every day by 5 a.m. He was at the student recreation center shortly after. He lifted, did ball-handling drills and then shot.

Sound familiar? Well, there's more.

After class, Schoen returned to the rec to get into as many pick-up games as he could. As far as intramurals go, Schoen basically won every basketball version possible.

"One-on-one, three-on-three, free throw, 3-point and team…we kind of swept them all," Schoen said. "I kept up (with basketball) pretty much every day, just in case that opportunity did come for me to get a walk-on tryout here, that I would make the most of it."

Schoen's opportunity came in the summer of 2014 when his high school coach, Ed Fritz, reached out K-State head coach Bruce Weber. From there, Schoen was able to get in front of K-State's coaching staff a few times to show what he could do.

"We said come and play with our guys, see if you can compete," Weber said. "It's a good story."

One day in August of 2014, K-State Director of Men's Basketball Operations Drew Speraw called Schoen. Of course, Schoen was in the gym at the time.

"I was getting some shots up, and Drew called me, letting me know that the coaching staff had come to a decision and they were going to make a spot for me on the team," Schoen said. "It was the happiest day of my life, honestly. I was exuberant. My brother (Dalton) and me couldn't stop smiling the entire day when I told him the news."




In his four years on the team, Schoen has logged 60 total minutes and scored 10 points. It's a typical career stat line for a walk-on, and Schoen knew that coming in. This season, he's been anything but a typical walk-on, however.

"Mason's unbelievable. He wants to coach," Weber said of Schoen, whose brother walked on for K-State football and is coming off a breakout redshirt sophomore season. "I told him, this is your chance. This is like an internship. You can be a player-coach. I think he's taken it to heart. He comes every day with unbelievable enthusiasm, whether it's the weight room or the basketball court. When we start our drills, he'll be the one yelling and getting them going. He's really grown up. He's been very important to us, there's no doubt about it."

It's one thing to be vocal and try to lead as a walk-on. It's quite another to have the unanimous respect of your teammates, which is exactly what Schoen has earned.

"He works hard at everything — lifting, practice, school. He's the hardest worker I've probably ever met," junior forward Dean Wade said of Schoen, a two-time First Team Academic All-Big 12 honoree. "He's just consistent every day and he's here working early. After we get done lifting, he'll go back in after practice and lift. I really, really appreciate what he's done because it makes everyone else works just as hard."

"Mason is definitely one of our leaders," junior guard Kamau Stokes added. "He holds us all accountable."

In team meetings, Schoen has been as vocal as K-State's on-the-court leader, junior Barry Brown. In the weight room, he serves as another set of eyes for strength and conditioning coach Ben O'Donnell. On the court, Schoen simplifies the coaching staff's job when it comes to running scout team.

"Usually we have to get together, draw it up and run the next play (one at a time)," Weber said. "Last week they had five plays and they were just running them."

In high school, Schoen embraced the idea of becoming a basketball coach once he was done playing. At K-State, he's gathered the knowledge and experience to begin that journey, and he's learned a little something different from each Wildcat coach.

Schoen said Weber and associate head coach Chris Lowery have instilled the value of doing everything the right way, regardless of how many times it takes.

"We're going to do it as many times as we can to do it the right way. If we don't do shell drill on defense the right way, we're going to keep doing it until we're do it right," Schoen said. "You can't chase perfection but if you do try to chase perfection you're eventually going to reach excellence."

From assistant coach Chester Frazier, Schoen pointed to the energy and detailed defensive passion needed to create a successful culture on that end of the floor. Schoen said assistant coach Brad Korn taught him that "it's not always about how much you say, but it's about what you say."

"I would say one thing that makes our coaching staff really amazing is that they each kind of have a different personality but, at the same time, they all have the same end goal and that is for us to be a successful team," Schoen said. "I've learned something from each coach and I can't wait to apply that someday in my coaching career."

After this season, Schoen hopes to find a graduate assistant position somewhere and then move into either a video coordinator or assistant role. Weber has no doubt he'll find success.

"Anything he does in life, he's going to be successful. He's so driven," Weber said. "He's just a good, quality young man and comes from a great family."

Until then, Schoen is soaking up every minute he's on K-State's roster, living out his first dream. On Saturday, he'll stand next to his family as he's recognized for senior day. It'll be emotional, he admitted, but the good kind.

"With the last four years and even before that with my whole life, I've always been dreaming of a senior day (at K-State)," Schoen said. "It's sad to see my last game be played at home but, at the same time, I know that it's been a great journey."

'Phantom Basketball' Practice Spurs K-State WBB into Strong Offense Heading into Big 12 Championship

Last Friday, before K-State women's basketball hosted Kansas, head coach Jeff Mittie took the ball out of practice. Instead of stagnantly staring at the ball on offense, which he'd seen plenty of on film, he wanted his players to look, move and work off each other.

The result? K-State hung 91 points up on Kansas and 86 at Texas Tech to close the regular season with back-to-back victories.

"I wanted to get our focus back on the things that got good shots, not the ball going in but the things that create good opportunities to score — ball movement, spacing, good screening action, those types of things," Mittie said, as K-State (15-14) prepares to face Kansas (12-17) in the first round of the Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Friday at 6 p.m. "I've done it before. It can be fun for a team to take the ball out for a little bit and get creative. Imagination, I think, is good. The other thing I've liked about it, when I've done it in the past, is it requires really good eye contact because you have to know, for instance, 'Did that player give me a bounce pass?' It's a unique thing to do."

Last time against the Jayhawks, K-State shot 57 percent from the field, hit 12-of-21 from beyond the arc and dished out 24 assists to eight turnovers. Against Texas Tech, K-State made 46 percent from the field and knocked down another 12 treys, its first two-game stretch with 10 or more made threes this season.

"We're moving the ball a lot better," junior guard Kayla Goth said. "Coach Mittie's been playing phantom basketball. He's taken the ball out of practice to get us moving a little better. We get caught ball-watching a lot and not really moving off the ball to get open looks, and we're doing that a lot better and shooting the ball a lot better."

Individually, freshman Rachel Ranke may have benefitted the most from K-State's phantom basketball practice. The 6-foot-1 guard scored 45 points between the Wildcats' last two wins, hitting 11-of-21 from 3-point range to earn her third Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor of the season.

"I haven't missed a shot without the basketball yet, so that's been good," Ranke joked. "It's helped me a lot to be more active without the ball. That's been good for us."



We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Corbin McGuire, or K-State Associate AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.


This message was sent to dyoder@ksu.edu.