Sophomore guard Micah Mason has been granted an NCAA waiver to negate the mandatory one-year residency requirement and is immediately eligible to suit up for Duquesne basketball this fall.
“I’m extremely happy for Micah and his family,” Dukes coach Jim Ferry said Thursday. “I thought the NCAA saw it right. When you talk about student-athlete welfare and family hardships, that’s exactly what this was.”
Mason, a native of Natrona Heights in Harrison, transferred home this summer after his freshman season at Drake University due to issues with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a gluten sensitivity that forced his mother, Karen, to move to Des Moines, Iowa, to cook for him.
Ferry applied for a medical hardship waiver to allow Mason to avoid missing a full season, working with the Mason family, Drake staff and doctors to offer NCAA a proper explanation and documentation.
Mason practiced full-time with the Dukes in the meantime but hadn’t been in the regular rotation due to the uncertainty regarding his eligibility -- “preparing for the worst case rather than the best case,” Ferry said.
Finally, during class Thursday morning, Mason’s phone buzzed with a message from Duquesne compliance director Rick Christensen: “You’re cleared,” it read.
He shot his parents a text and breathed a long sigh of relief.
“I’m just really happy,” Mason said. “This was on my mind for the last three months.”
He was admittedly nervous as he read the headlines the last few weeks of other transfers across the country being granted medical hardship waivers.
“Having a real reason to transfer, I felt that I should definitely be granted the waiver,” Mason said. “I just couldn’t wait for this day to come.”
And it comes with hardly a day to spare. Mason and the Dukes open the 2013-14 campaign by hosting Abilene Christian at the Palumbo Center for a Saturday matinée. Mason expects 30 family and friends to be in attendance at his first game on the Bluff.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard is a deadeye shooter and brings “another offensive punch” to the lineup, Ferry said. Mason was the Missouri Valley Conference’s top 3-point shooter last season, hitting on 40 of 79 attempts (.506 percent).
“I think the kid is one of the best 3-point shooters in the country,” Ferry said.
Mason, the 12th-highest scorer in WPIAL history, started 11 games for Drake last season, averaging 5.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
The Highlands High School graduate set a WPIAL record with 346 career 3-pointers and was the first player in 30 years to lead the league in scoring in back-to-back seasons.
“He’s a cold-blooded shooter,” junior forward Dominique McKoy said.
“He doesn’t miss much,” senior forward Ovie Soko added.
Adding Mason to the mix adds crucial depth and experience to a young squad returning just three scholarship players from a season ago. Mason’s outside touch allows the Dukes to space the floor and use their strong interior play to set up open looks from the perimeter.
“It’s going to be hard for other teams to guard us,” Soko said, “because you can’t really leave him open.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-290-2183. Twitter: @stephenjnesbitt. First Published November 7, 2013 12:39 PM