With the 2016–17 season opener just days away, the Yale men’s basketball team suffered a startling loss. First-team All-Ivy point guard Makai Mason ’18 is not expected to play this season after suffering a foot injury in a scrimmage on Saturday.
Erik Dobratz of News 8 first reported the news Tuesday afternoon. That evening, head coach James Jones confirmed that Mason is “most likely out for the season.”
Described by CBS commentator and five-time NBA All-Star Chris Webber as a “bad little man” during the Big Dance last year, Mason fueled much of the Bulldogs’ offense in the 2015–16 campaign. The junior led the Elis with 16.0 points and 3.8 assists per game and received Ivy League Player of the Week honors three times, but delivered most under pressure in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. His 31 points in Yale’s upset win over No. 5-seeded Baylor was a career high as he went 11-of-11 from the free throw line in the first-round game.
The junior was to be the go-to scorer for a team that already has to overcome the graduation of three-fifths of its starting lineup — forwards Justin Sears ’16 and Brandon Sherrod ’16 and guard Nick Victor ’16, all of whom are playing professionally in Europe. In their absence, guard and captain Anthony Dallier ’17 will now be the lone returning starter from last season’s historic tournament run.
Jones had high hopes for his point guard, acknowledging Mason’s exceptional play from last season but also recognizing some key areas in which he could improve.
“He had a really good year last year, but he can get better,” Jones said. “His biggest area of improvement would be taking care of the ball, so his number of turnovers needs to go down and his number of assists needs to go up.”
After he gained national attention last March, Mason wasted no time exploring his basketball opportunities outside of Yale. The junior took advantage of a recent NCAA rule change that allowed him to declare for the NBA draft and test the professional market without losing his collegiate eligibility.
Mason decided to return to the Bulldogs for the 2016–17 season, but that did not stop him from maximizing his summer basketball opportunities. The Greenfield, Massachusetts, native played for the German National Team during the summer months, while the team was competing for a berth in the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 tournament. Mason appeared in all six games.
Without Mason on the court, the Elis will need to find someone else to bring the ball up the floor. Dallier played in every game last season and started the final 10 games. The senior scored 12 points against Duke in the second round of NCAA tournament and received the team’s Most Improved Player award at the season’s end.
Guard Trey Phills ’19, who appeared in both NCAA tournament games last season, may join Dallier in the backcourt. Other guards on the roster include AJ Edwards ’17 and Alex Copeland ’19, who appeared in 12 and 13 games, respectively. Newcomers Eric Monroe ’20 and Miye Oni ’20 could also potentially be early contributors in the backcourt.
The Bulldogs enter the season ranked third in the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll, which was released on Oct. 19.