Faces in KS: Mason Alexander

Mason Alexander of McPherson is one of the top point guards in Kansas. (photo courtesy of Alexander)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Jan 2, 2018

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McPherson, led by head coach Kurt Kinnamon, is the basketball capital of Kansas in our opinion. The 13 state titles in boys basketball since 1972 pretty much give that away. That is third most in Kansas history behind KC Wyandotte (20) and Newton (13). However, Wyandotte doesn't have a title since 1998 and Newton is without one since 1979. It doesn't drop off on the girls side either as the McPherson girls team has eight state titles ranging from 1981-to-2012. 

McPherson is also the home to a lot of brothers and basketball families over the years that have been very successful in high school and at the next level. The most famous would be 1986 alum Steve Henson.  His brother Brian Henson was also once the 1991 Kansas player of the year and their dad was the legendary coach there, Mike Henson. All had a ton of success at McPherson. Steve eventually went on to the NBA after an outstanding career at Kansas State and is now the head coach at Division I University of Texas San Antonio. He also spent several years as Lon Kruger's top assistant at multiple spots. Also in the Division I coaching ranks is McPherson alum Brad Underwood, now the head coach at Illinois after stops at Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State.

Over the last thirty years or so another family making noise in McPherson and that is the Alexander family. And they are doing it with two generations of players. The three Alexander brothers (Todd, Chad, Josh) made a lot of headlines in the late 80s to mid 90s for Mac. Todd Alexander was an all-stater at McPherson (1989) before going on to play at KU and Washburn. Chad Alexander (1993) was also an all-state selection and went on to play at Oklahoma State. Josh was the player of the year in Kansas back in 1996 and went on to play at Hutchinson CC and McPherson College. 

Fast forward to over twenty years later and we have the next generation of Alexanders, led by Mason, a senior all-state point guard, who is Todd's son. Jake Alexander, a junior all-state selection, is the son of Chad. Jayse Alexander, son of Josh, is also a member of the McPherson basketball team but basketball isn't his main sport, it's football where he was a first team all-state linebacker for the Pups this fall.  And it won't stop at Mason, Jake, and Jayse either. Josh has a younger freshman son, Jayton, on the McPherson team and Todd's youngest son, Max, is a freshman tearing it up in junior varsity ball this season. Todd's daughter, Magan, is also a former all-state volleyball player at McPherson and is a sophomore outside hitter at Fort Hays State. It's safe to say the Alexander's are a known basketball/sports family in Kansas. 

But today we are here to talk about Mason the latest Alexander making headlines. The 6-foot-1 senior may be one of the best kept secrets in Kansas to recruiters and is averaging 17 points per game so far in 2017-2018. He's a good scorer but where he is best may be distributing the basketball, controlling the pace of the game and making things happen defensively. He shows that with his six assists and three steals per game so far. Alexander can score at all three levels and has shown the ability to get off a shot at any time that he wants to. He may have the best handles we have seen over the last few seasons of covering high school basketball in this state. Alexander is also an agressor on defense. 

"I consider myself a true point guard that can play any style that is needed. I would say my strengths are that I'm a winner, my leadership and my toughness." Mason Alexander said.

That toughness may be earned in the pickup games in McPherson, Kansas. It's something that adds to why it is such a basketball town in Kansas.People in McPerson grow up idolzing the older players, pick-up games can be found at a gym in town almost every night, ranging from players of all-ages. They grow up wanting to play in the historic Roundhouse and win state titles. And as you can see success doesn't stop after high school as many have went on to great college careers and some like Henson even to the NBA. McPherson also has the most Mr. Kansas Basketball honorees, giving annually to the top player in the state from the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, in the state with seven (Steve Henson, Brian Henson, Ryan Herrs, Aubrey Bruner, Jordan Fithian, Christian Ulsaker, Drew Pyle). Basketball has been so big in McPherson and the surrounding area that division one coaches stumbled upon nearby Moundridge star Jacy Holloway in the early 1990s because of the division one coaches recuiting the area at the time. Holloway went on to start four years at Iowa State and played in a NCAA Sweet 16.

"My dad organizes pickup games one to three nights a week. The best players in town play. All college and ex-college players play as well as some overseas guys. It's all about tradition. My dad tells me about pickup games going back 30 years and it's always about the young kids being challenged and learning from the great older players. McPherson is the basketball capital of Kansas." Alexander said. 

It also has a lot to do with coaching over the years for the Pups. Jay Frazier won the first three state titles for McPherson with three consecutive from 1972-to-1974. We mentioned Mike Henson who had four titles (three consecutive) at McPherson (1990, 1991, 1992, 1994)  but Kurt Kinnamon has taken it one step further with his six state titles since 1996 (1996,1999, 2003, 2011, 2014, 2015). Kinnamon, a St. John native, who's brother, Clint, is a multiple time state championship coach at St. John, is also from a big basketball family. As a player he still holds the career record in Kansas for scoring average at 28.2 ppg from 1979-1982 at St. John. His son Kyler is currently a star guard at Fort Hays State and was a multiple time all-state selection for the Pups. His nephews are also collegiate basketball players at both Cowley County and Kansas State. His son, Jace, will be a all-state hopeful next year in football for the Pups and also on this years basketball team. But it's his coaching where he has seen his most sucess and that's because he gets the most out of his players.

"Coach Kinnamon demands our best effort at all times. He has had a lot of success as MHS head coach which makes it easier for us to have trust in him as a coach." Alexander said. 

It's not just Mason that is a star player either for the Bullpups. In fact to statewide media, he is known as the second player on this team, mainly because of stats. That is because Mac features 6-foot-8 division one signee Ben Pyle, who may be one of the most dominant scorers in the state of Kansas and has lights out range. Pyle has signed with Western Illinois and also comes from a basketball family. His older brother Drew, also an all-state selection that was Mr. Kansas Basketball in 2016, is currently at Washburn. But if you've seen a game it's Alexander's feel for the game that makes this team go along with Pyle's lights out scoring. It's not just one star player for Mac, it's two and this one-two punch may be the best duo in Kansas. 

"Ben and I go way back to the fourth grade playing together. Our chemistry is like no other and it shows. He's a great player and I feel like we are the best 1-2 punch in the state of Kansas. We make it easier for eachother and harder for who's trying to contain us." Alexander said.

McPherson (5-1) has dominated all of its competition outside of a two-point loss to Bishop Miege, last years 4A-I champ that knocked off the Pups in the title game. It was one of the best games we saw in the 2017 part of the season and really could have went either way. We could see that as a rematch, it's just a matter of when at the state tournament. The Pups are back in action this Tuesday against Buhler. What makes basketball so special in this community of just over 13,000 people?  We find out in the latest edition of Faces in Kansas with Bullpup senior point guard Mason Alexander below
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Q&A w/ Mason Alexander

How did you get involved with sports?

Ever since I can remember I've had a ball in my hands. Started very young playing every sport I could.

What are the goals and expectations this season?

Goal is State Championship. Anything less is unacceptable

What is it like to play for coach Kinnamon?

Coach Kinnamon demands our best effort at all times. He has had a lot of success as MHS head coach which makes it easier for us to have trust in him as a coach.

What style of player are you, what are your strengths and weaknesses?

I consider myself a true PG that can play any style that is needed. I can score at all three levels. Being able to get my own shot shot me apart from most PGs.
My strengths are: Winner. Leadership. Toughness. Ability to get a good shot anytime (esp mid range pull-ups). Feel for the game. Ball Handling.
Weaknesses: Can always be btr at everything.
Too aggressive on D / occasionally in foul trouble

The Alexander family is a known basketball family in Kansas, do you live and breathe basketball?

Yes. I live and breathe it. Our family has a great tradition that I'm lucky to be a part of

Pickup game in the family with all that talent? Who is the best and what is a game like? What makes McPherson basketball capital of Kansas?

Pickup games, McPherson tradition and family playing pickup all go hand in hand.
My dad organizes pickup games 1-3 nights a week. The best players in town play. All college and ex college players as well as some overseas guys. This is all about tradition. My dad tells me about pickup games going back 30 years it's always about the young kids being challenged and learning from great older players.
McPherson is the basketball capitol of KS. We grow up playing together and expecting to win. We work at it from a young age...all to be able to be able to play in the Round House and compete for state titles.

How good is Ben Pyle, has to be incredible to play with a guy like that

Ben and I go way back. We've been playing together since 4th grade. Our chemistry is like non other and it shows. He's a great player, and I feel like we're the best 1-2 punch in the state of Kansas. We make it easier for each other, and a lot harder for whoever is try to contain us.

Plans at the next level and seeing any interest?

I currently am undecided as to what college I will attend next year. I have numerous D2 offers from around the Midwest, and multiple Interests from D1s. I just want to be patient and make sure I find the right fit with a successful program. Winning is the main thing I'm looking for wherever I go next.

Other key players on your team this year?

Besides Ben and myself, another key player to our success is Jake Alexander. The things he does go unnoticed a lot of the time, but he certainly can score the ball. We will have many games this season where our big three will all have 20+. We are all capable of putting up big numbers each night, but Individual stats do not matter and in the end we play to win, and for each other.

 

Best player you’ve played against and other key players you’ll face this season?

The best player I've ever played against in my career would be almost impossible to choose. Ranging across the whole United States, I've played against a lot of great players. This season, Jeremiah Robinson would be the best player we've played against so far, with Bryant Mocaby and Tyler Brown right up there with him.

Do you play any other sports?

I played football all growing up, but stopped after my freshman year to focus on basketball.

What’s it like to grow up in your town?

Growing up in McPherson, there is ALWAYS a gym open to go shoot or play pickup in. Everybody knows just about everyone in town and with there only being one high school in town, our whole community is behind us. That separates from the big city schools and also explains why we have the best fans in the state.

Favorite subject in school?

My favorite subject in school is science. I would like to to go into medicine.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In ten years, I have no clue where I'll be. I always just focus on the now and being the best player I can be, and I'll see where that takes me in the future.

Best place to eat in your surrounding area?

The best place to eat in McPherson would have to be our Imperial Garden Chinese place or La Fiesta Mexican restaurant.