Mines’ basketball teams are in the middle of an extremely competitive RMAC conference schedule right now with the men just a couple games back of being #1 in the standings as the regular season gets shorter with every game. There are also only four home games left for the men including this coming Saturday’s game being the annual Rock the Lock.
One of the men responsible for Mines’ men’s team success is Mason Baker. The redshirt junior is not just one of Mines’ best players but also one of the best players in Division II having just been named to the top 100 watch list for the Division II player of the year award, The Bevo Francis Award. I recently had the opportunity to ask Mason a few questions about his time at Mines and playing basketball for the men’s team and would like to thank him for the time he took to answer these questions.
Why did you decide to attend Mines?
I committed to Mines because I knew this university would ultimately give me the best opportunity to compete at a high level in basketball, while also working towards a world-class engineering degree. Mines really is the best of both worlds when it comes to academics and athletics, and I was very grateful to receive a scholarship in order to be here. Coach Orser and Coach Schick have also created a great culture here, and that is something I wanted to be apart of moving forward in my college career.
What do you love about basketball?
I love all of the life lessons that basketball has taught me. All of the experiences, good or bad, that I have been through because of basketball have shaped me into who I am today. I also love the team aspect that comes with the sport. When I look back on the years that pass, I don’t remember the wins or losses, but rather the fun times I’ve had hanging out with the guys.
Who were your role models in basketball growing up?
I had a lot of role models in basketball growing up. My dad played division 1 basketball at Idaho State before playing professionally overseas in Australia where I was born. He was the first person to put the ball in my hands, and he was the only coach I had up until highschool. Just knowing what he was able to accomplish from basketball made me want that for myself and more… Without him, I know I wouldn’t be in the same position I am today. Michael Jordan was also an obvious role model for me growing up. Even though I wasn’t able to watch him play, I was obsessed with his legend from an early age. Lastly, Steve Nash was someone I always looked up to. I would turn on every Phoenix Suns game when I was younger just to watch him. The way he could shoot and get his teammates involved were the parts of his game that I wanted to utilize in mine.
How has playing basketball affected your life?
If basketball has taught me anything, it is that you get out what you put into it. That lesson alone has changed my life in more ways than I can describe. Whether it’s school, a job, a relationship, or anything in life worth doing right; you can only expect to get what you give. Whenever I am struggling in something that is always one thing I remind myself of. I always ask myself, ‘What more could I do?’. And usually giving that extra effort is the difference between succeeding or not. Basketball has also taken me places I never would have gotten to experience if I didn’t play. The places I have been and the good people I have met have all been made possible because I decided to pick up a ball and dribble it. My dad always reminds me that basketball is a vehicle to get you from point A to point B in life. “Use basketball… don’t let it use you’, is the famous quote he always says.
Do you have any pregame superstitions or rituals?
Before every game, I bring a fresh pair of socks with me to the gym and put them on in the same order every time. I take everything off of both feet, and then I put my left sock on, then the right, followed by the left shoe and then again the right shoe. I then tie my left shoe first (always double knot), and then the right. If I stand up and my shoes don’t feel perfect, I’ll take everything back off again and do the same thing until I get it perfect.
What was your most memorable experience on the Mines basketball team?
The most memorable experience I’ve had at Mines came my redshirt year when I wasn’t even playing. We had just beaten West Texas A&M on our home floor to go to the elite 8, and that was the first and only time in program history that has happened. The excitement and energy that came from hosting and winning the regional tournament is something we as a team has been working to get back to. Until we make it past that round, that is what our goal is as a team. Only next time, I want to be a starter on an elite 8 team, rather than being a redshirt watching the games.
What are your thoughts on being named to the Bevo Francis Award watch list?
I am just honored and humbled to be selected to a watch list such as that. To know how many guys are playing at every level, and to be selected one of 100 players to be recognized by that award is something special to me. I would like to thank everyone on that committee that voted for me, and I hope I can play well enough to make the cut for the top 50 that comes out later this year. I am also thankful for my coaches for giving me the opportunity to play this game, and I am thankful to have had such amazing teammates here at Mines over the past several years. An award like that wouldn’t be possible without them.
How has being a student-athlete influenced your work ethic?
Being a student-athlete at Mines has been very challenging for me at times. Being a student-athlete at Mines is very difficult, and something you can’t explain to people who haven’t gone through it. Mines demands excellence in both athletics and academics and you have to be willing to bring it every single day, or you won’t make it very far. There really are no shortcuts here, and if it wasn’t for the work ethic my parents had instilled inside me from such an early age, I probably would have dropped out after the first semester.
What advice would you give to freshman Orediggers?
The advice I would give freshman Orediggers would be to not be scared of the first punch. Everyone gets knocked down here at some point in their career. Whether that is from athletics, or from athletics, it’s is going to happen. It’s unavoidable. Just make sure you have a strong foundation, so when you do get knocked down, you will be able to stand right back up. It’s all about moving forward, and as long as you can do that, everything will be fine at the end of the day. Enjoy the ride because it does go by faster than you think.
We wish Mason and the rest of the men’s team the best of luck as they finish their season.