GARDEN CITY – Unlike former St. John-Hudson basketball standout Dean Wade, Mason Osborne didn’t have Division I schools knocking on his door during the 2018-19 recruiting season.
Wade, a 6-9 post/forward for the Tigers, led his high school team to state championships in 2013 (1A-I), 2014 and 2015 (2A) in playing a key role in the school’s state-record 63-game winning streak.
Osborne, meanwhile, would crack the Tigers’ starting lineup a year after Wade graduated and would be part of two state runner-up teams (1A, 2019) and 2A (2017) as well as playing on the third-place team in 2018 (1A-I).
The 6-4 point/shooting guard, though, didn’t have the D-I coaches calling, so his recruiting process boiled down to smaller four-year colleges as well as the community colleges in Kansas.
His final decision resulted in his arrival in Garden City to play for head coach Patrick Nee and the Broncbusters.
While his stats are not eye-opening numbers, Osborne nonetheless has made the transition to collegiate ball a successful one. The good news? His coach and Osborne feel he’s well on his way to making strides that eventually will result in a Division I scholarship after his sophomore season.
“The thing I liked about Mason was his attitude about what he wanted to achieve down the road,” Nee said in a recent interview. “I was talking to him about D-II schools, but Mason said no, he wanted to be a D-I player and he’s been working extremely hard to get to that goal.”
With just a couple of weeks of his freshman season remaining, Osborne has played in 25 games, averaging 4.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He’s shooting a respectable 44.8 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from 3-point range and 66.7 percent at the free throw stripe.
“It’s a lot more physical game at this level,” Osborne said in a recent interview about the transition from small 1A basketball to the tough Kansas Jayhawk Conference schedule. “Everybody’s quick. Everybody’s strong and everybody can shoot.”
Osborne said he has appreciated Nee’s mentoring in his freshman season as he continues to spend time in the weight room to get stronger, and other drills to improve his overall quickness.
“My roles are more defined here, where in high school I kind of had to do it all,” Osborne said. “I had to shoot, rebound, dropoff more in high school. Now, I can focus on penetrating and dumping the ball off to a teammate. I like seeing my teammates dunk or hit a knockdown a jumper after a pass.”
Nee said in the Broncbusters’ style of offense, one couldn’t describe Osborne as a point or a shooting guard. That, he said, is due to the structure of the offensive system he utilizes.
“Everybody plays in different spots, so I just see him and the others as a player and not necessarily a 1, 2 or 3 player,” Nee said.
Osborne said he has enjoyed his rookie college season despite the fact that the ‘Busters have struggled through the season in the always-challenging Jayhawk Conference.
“All of it is fun and I’m just trying to get better and grow as a basketball player and as a person,” Osborne said. “I think my shooting has grown a lot and I just continue to try and be aggressive.”
With a 30-game regular-season schedule as opposed to a 20-game slate in high school, Osborne said the longer season, longer road trips were cause for taking a toll on his body. But, he said, he’s trying to do all the right things to stay healthy.
“There’s more games, more travel and you just have to take care of your body,” Osborne said. “I don’t think I’ve been surprised at the level of play in the (Jayhawk) conference because I had talked to a number of players who had previously played. Everyone’s good and each night there’s somebody out there with something to prove."
As far as the academic side of college, Osborne said he did not have a specific emphasis on a field of study, but the academics remain a high priority.
“Just like high school, I put the emphasis on grades first,” Osborne said. “You’ve got to go to class. Find and take the time to study and keep up. I definitely want to continue past the time I’m here at Garden City.”
Despite playing at a tiny school such as St. John-Hudson, Osborne said he appreciates the coaching he received from Tiger mentor Clint Kinnamon.
“Coach K was a great coach and he was always preaching to you every day,” Osborne said. “He would yell at you, but in a way to keep you wanting to get better. It was always constructive. I just look at it as tough love. He makes you better.”
Nee said he also had a friendship with Kinnamon and that played a pivotal role in his recruitment of Osborne.
“Clint and I are very good friends and I’d seen him (Osborne) play,” Nee recalled of the recruiting of the all-state guard. “You could see the toughness and his ability to direct traffic on the floor. There are times when I’d like him to be more aggressive, but he’s steadily improved. He’s just so unselfish, but we’re certainly a better team when he’s on the floor.”
Nee had high praise for Osborne’s tenacity on the defensive end of the floor, too.
“We ask him to guard the other team’s best guard, and I think that challenge is one reason he has the aspirations of D-I basketball coming true,” Nee said. “He’s proving to be good enough to play in the Jayhawk Conference as a starter and he can play at or above this level.”
Osborne said he also had appreciated the fact that many of the GCCC games have been at sites not far from his St. John-Hudson home.
“Mom and Dad haven’t missed a game,” Osborne said with a smile. “It’s always good to know they’re in the crowd. I’ve been able to have a bunch of my friends see me play, too.”
And while Nee is pleased with his freshman guard, he knows the best is yet to come.
“There are times I believe he can give us more,” Nee said, “but there are things he does that are not in the stats. He’s a take-charge player, plays tenacious defense and he’s a glue kind of guy for our team. That’s about all you can ask.”
For Osborne, it’s a daily routine that has become the norm of his collegiate life.
“Every day, just trying to be better,” Osborne said. “Work hard. Pay attention to details. Get stronger. Work on the little things to make my game better. That’s the goal.”