KT Harell, right, and Antoine Mason will take their shots at making an NBA roster
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld had some advice Antoine Mason during a recent workout: Be tough on defense.
Be gritty, like his dad.
Anthony Mason's son, who played at Auburn last year, hopes to hear his name called during the NBA draft on Thursday night. But even if he doesn't hear it, he'll try to impress in NBA summer league play, or even overseas, if necessary, like his dad once did before playing himself into a NBA career that stretched over parts of 15 seasons.
Auburn's Marquis Daniels wasn't drafted in 2003, but played 10 years in the NBA. More than a dozen former Auburn players are playing or have played overseas.
Mason and fellow Auburn forward KT Harrell have worked out for a variety of NBA teams leading to the draft and won't to make an impression leading to next season.
Auburn fans know the Anthony Mason story from last season when his son left Auburn during the year to be with his critically-ill father, who died Feb. 28. Mason returned to Auburn to help the Tigers make their surprising run in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Antoine Mason listened to Grunfeld. And why not? "He also talked about he gave my dad a big contract and how he knows my parents. He knows my mom. He told me to tell my mom hello."
A little help can't hurt, whether it's advice from Grunfeld, or the NBA connections Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person has, or the friends Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl has in the league.
Harrell relied on Auburn's help, too.
"Coach Chuck played in the league and coached in the league, so he had a lot of connections. He helped me, and so did Coach Pearl," Harrell said.
Mason worked out for the Wizards and Orlando. Harrell worked out for Houston, San Antonio, Miami, Philadelphia, Utah and Minnesota.
Like Mason, Harrell plans to play in the NBA summer leagues.
Harrell said he thought his workouts went well.
"I shot the ball really well. I've gotten good feedback," Harrell said. "But it's kind of tough to get a feel for what they're looking for. I just went in and tried to perform and show my strengths. I just tried to show what I can do, that's the only thing I can really control."
And like Harrell, Mason said he "stuck to my strengths. At the end, I asked them what to work on, and they just said just keep becoming a lot better defender.
"Orlando said they don’t see me as a point guard or 2-guard, they just see me as a scoring guard, somebody that can get to the foul line and score and provide a lot of offense and defense for them."
Mason said Grunfeld told him not to "worry about offense, that will come. Just make sure you give all your effort, which I did in the workout. He said he sees that scoring comes naturally for me."
Mason said his final season, made difficult by an injury and especially by his father's death, prepared him for the toughness of the game.
"It was just the physical aspect I had to overcome getting back into good shape where I could perform to the level that I wanted to, and, mentally, just making sure that I didn’t break down… that I stayed strong for my mom and my family and just try to focus on basketball and leave my personal issues outside of it."
He said he'll watch the draft with his family in New York. And he'll be thinking of Auburn.
"I'm very thankful," Mason said. "I got to play against the best competition, and it helped me gain confidence that I can play on the next level. I thank the fans and just the support especially from this year after dealing with what I had to deal with getting back to Auburn how they made it a peaceful place because the fans were supporting me, my coaches, my teammates, and I wouldn’t change that experience for anything.”
Mason and Harrell saw the gratitude of Auburn fans on Twitter after the season. They responded in kind.
"I just wanted to let everybody know I appreciated my time at Auburn," Harrell said. "I'm thankful for the time."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine