Feb. 17, 2014
When looking for words to describe Virginia guard Breyana Mason, "quiet" and several other unobtrusive synonyms immediately pop to mind. The self-described "shy" freshman is very soft-spoken and uses an even-keeled, low volume when conversing with people, seldom raising her voice or even offering much inflection, but then it happens. She flashes a deep, radiant smile that draws you in, making it impossible to overlook her.
Mason's playing career has been an almost perfect metaphor for her personality. It began very quietly when she was young.
"I first started playing when I was five or six," Mason recalled. "I picked up a basketball and started playing by myself. My dad had tons of basketballs around. I always saw him playing with his friends, so I decided to pick up one, too. My parents kind of noticed me doing it and they helped foster my development."
For three years, Mason took piano lessons and played soccer for two years while also playing hoops, but when her family moved from Texas to Virginia when she was seven, she dropped the other interests and just focused on basketball.
Quietly, her game developed.
"When I was in middle school, I was playing AAU and was starting to get some exposure and some interest from college coaches, so that was when I realized I could probably play at the next level," Mason recalled.
Attending a small K-12 private school, Mason began playing `at another level' when she was a seventh grader playing on the varsity team, often matching up against juniors and seniors in high school.
"I was doing pretty well playing against the older kids," Mason modestly stated. "The competition wasn't the best, but the people I played against were bigger and a little bit faster than I was. I did have to learn early how to shoot over people. I have always been pretty small."
Mason began to quietly rack up points until it was hard to ignore the girl from Woodbridge, Va. who scored 1,979 points during her four years of high school. When you add in her two extra years of varsity play, her scoring total becomes a phenomenal 3,313 points.
The numbers are impressive and being named the 2012-13 Gatorade State Player of the Year in Virginia is no small feat, but there was one honor that Mason earned in high school that immediately impressed the UVa faithful. She is the all-time career scoring leader in Prince William County and Forest Park High, breaking records once owned by Virginia standout Monica Wright
"I've only gotten to meet her a couple of times and I never really got to sit down and talk to her one-on-one," Mason said of Wright. "The first time I met her was actually at a team camp at UVa. She gave us a tour of the locker room. She was so down-to-earth. So very nice. A humble person. That first impression left me with a good one."
Mason, herself a very humble and down-to-earth person, quietly worked over the years to improve her game.
"I spent a lot of time with my dad working every day," Mason said. "I had good coaches and good teammates. Everything just kind of happened on its own."
Mason's Virginia career began much more quietly than she had intended after sustaining an injury during preseason camp that set back her development.
"It was a little bit frustrating because I'm not really a person who gets injured a lot," Mason said. "I have only had one other injury when I had to sit out for a significant amount of time, so it was more than a little frustrating being a freshman during preseason when we were about to start playing and having to be on the sidelines."
She made the most of her time, standing near Ataira Franklin, who was also limited during preseason practices, and gleaning advice from the veteran guard.
Quietly, Mason's injury healed and she began slowly increasing her game minutes. Two days before the Florida State game, Coach Boyle called her into the office and told her that she'd be moving into the starting lineup.
"I probably get more nervous starting than when I am coming off the bench," Mason admitted. "There is a lot of responsibility in getting the team off to a good start. Whereas on the bench, you are coming in and trying to bring energy and make sure there isn't a drop-off from the person that you came in for."
It's still a quiet time in Mason's scoring career, but her play as the starting point guard is starting to get noticed. She has had a pair of four-assist games and has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio since moving into the starting lineup while also bringing a new energy to the court that is hard to miss.
Mason is also bringing her energy and radiant smile to her favorite class this semester, Introduction to Theatre.
"It is kind of weird that it is my favorite class, because you do acting in that class and I am a shy person, but it turned out to be pretty cool so far," Mason said. "On the first day, they explained that even with athletes, they perform on the court and they can be different on and off the court. So I just kind of took that and applied that to my drama class."
Right now, most of the `acting' has involved the entire group reciting lines together with Mason able to quietly blend in with the rest. If the class progresses like her playing career, it will only be a matter of time before there is a spotlight as bright as her smile shining down on her.