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Consider Diani Mason an improv actress who now finds herself on Broadway.
Last season, Mason helped lead the Academy of American Studies, a small Queens PSAL school, to the state Federation Class B girls’ basketball final and a near-undefeated season as a freshman.
Mason is now at Bishop Ford playing in one of the toughest leagues in the country, because of a move from Woodside to Flatbush and a need for a better academic environment.
The transition hasn’t been an easy one for Mason. She has had to adapt to a different style of play, learn an intricate system and deal with considerably less playing time.
“I cried,” she said. “I pouted, but now it’s like I always can’t get what I like. It’s not a spotlight on Diani Mason. It’s a spotlight on Bishop Ford.”
Mason even got a slow start on the transition because of a severely sprained ankle she suffered in September that limited her in preseason conditioning. She says the hardest part so far has been adjusting to the up-and-down style of play and the emphasis on defense. The guard says she just tries to equate her playing in the projects in Woodside.
“I’m kind of use to it because [in] the beginning for my career I played with all boys,” Mason said. “So it’s sort of like that, but I can’t put too much street into it. It’s not that different, but it’s different.”
Mason brings a certain flair and energy when she enters a game. Her quickness and athleticism allows her to be a tenacious defender and an excellent penetrator and even lets her block a few shots.
“She is a lightning bolt,” Academy of American Studies Coach Juan Faya said.
While Mason is still learning, she is the type of strong player Bishop Ford Coach John LoSasso likes to bring into a game off the bench. She was the sixth man for most of the season at American Studies and began starting as the playoffs rolled on.
“She has talent and she can play the style we want to play,” LoSasso said. “Her best attribute is anticipation, her defensive anticipation. That’s what we need.”
Last season, Mason was an impact player for an American Studies team that went 31-1 and lost to Briarcliff in the Federation final after winning the first city championship in the young school’s history. She averaged 16 points a game, four rebounds, three assists and shot 58 percent from the field as her team ran over its competition.
“She played all over the place for us,” Faya said. “She played one, two and three. She was a real big part of it.”
It was an experience Mason will never forget.
“For me to win everything like that as a freshman, it’s just a feeling that you can’t describe,” she said. “I’ll never forget it. Coming in as a freshman and scoring like that, defeating everything by 40-something points. It’s crazy. It’s unbelievable.”
Her move to Bishop Ford, though, was not about basketball, but a rededication to improving her grades, giving herself better resources to prepare herself for college and maturing as a person.
Mason struggled in the classroom at times, according to Faya.
“Her move surprised me a little bit,” Faya said. “A Catholic school you would expect to be a little more disciplined, more strict. But our school is pretty tough academically and she had a little trouble with it. But I’m glad that she sounds happy.”
The reason is in Mason herself, as schoolwork has become a larger priority. She said she is passing all her classes and has sought tutoring when needed.
“It’s harder now — imagine college,” Mason said of her course work. “I have to get my academics up there. I’m going to put my schoolwork first. Everyone told me school comes before basketball, but I never listened. I’ve finally seen it. I’m pushing myself.”
Mason realizes what she needs to do to stay at this raised level of basketball competition and academic dedication.
“I had to step my game up,” she said. “So I stepped up. I had some bumps in the road, but I followed through.”
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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