The NCAA has ruled that Duquesne guard Micah Mason is eligible to play basketball immediately.
“I’m extremely happy for Micah and his family,” coach Jim Ferry said in announcing the ruling 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 this summer after his freshman season at Drake University because of 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.
Working with the Mason family, Drake staff and doctors, Ferry asked the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver so Mason would not have to sit out an entire season after transferring.
Mason, a sophomore, has practiced full time with the Dukes but hadn’t been in the regular playing rotation because of 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.
“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 when they play host to Abilene Christian at Palumbo Center Saturday afternoon. 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 an accurate 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 played at Highlands High School and is the 12th-highest scorer in WPIAL history and holds the league record with 346 career 3-pointers. He started 11 games for Drake last season, averaging 5.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Adding Mason to the mix creates crucial depth and experience to a young squad returning just three scholarship players. Mason’s outside touch also 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, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.