Last week, Andrew Slater of 247 Sports reported that Yale rising senior Makai Mason will attend Baylor University in the fall of 2018 as a graduate transfer. The 2015-16 first-team All-Ivy guard missed all of last season due to a foot injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage against Boston University. Mason, who was recently named the Yale captain for the upcoming season, averaged 16.0 points, 3.8 assists, and 32.7 minutes of playing time per game in his sophomore campaign.
Mason declared for the 2016 NBA Draft, but withdrew his name a few days after the combine. Since he did not choose an agent, he returned to Yale and retained his last two years of eligibility. After his first-semester injury, Mason decided to continue his studies at Yale instead of taking a leave of absence, as opposed to Alex Rosenberg at Columbia or Siyani Chambers at Harvard. By staying in school, Mason will earn his degree in the spring of 2018 and retain one year of athletic eligibility. Since the Ivy League does not allow graduate students to participate, he is free to play his last season at any institution the following season. That freedom has been exercised over the last few years by Cornell’s Shonn Miller (Connecticut), Penn’s Tony Hicks (Louisville), Harvard’s Patrick Steeves (George Washington), Dartmouth’s Alex Mitola (George Washington) and Brown’s Rafael Maia (Pittsburgh). Recently, two graduating All-Ivy Princeton players, Hans Brase (Iowa State) and Henry Caruso (Santa Clara), have added their names to this ever-growing list.
According to the report at 247 Sports, Mason was proactive in his selection process in order to find a program that would be in the hunt for the 2019 National Championship, while allowing him to showcase his skills for that season’s NBA Draft. Despite interest from 2017 national runner-up Gonzaga, 2015 national champion Duke, and perennial power Notre Dame, Mason went with the Bears. Baylor fans will already be familiar with Mason, as he had a career high 31 points in the No. 12 seeded Bulldogs’ upset of the No. 5 seeded Bears in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
In the winter of 2016, Yale basketball player Jack Montague was expelled by the university for sexual misconduct. Following the expulsion and prior to the official reason being publicly announced, Mason joined his teammates in a show of support for their former captain that angered many campus groups and individuals that work to end sexual assault. In response to the pushback, the basketball team, through the school’s assistant director for sports publicity, released a short statement backing a safe environment for all their classmates, and apologizing for any hurt their public support of Montague may have caused.
In February 2018, Montague’s trial against Yale is scheduled to begin, bringing the national media back to New Haven, where it will be focusing its energies on the intersection of college campuses, athletics, and sexual assault. At the same time, Mason’s future school will still be under the national spotlight as it attempts to recover from numerous allegations of sexual assault, many committed by members of its football team over the last several years, and it’s administration’s inadequate handling of these accusations. The institutional failures at Baylor resulted in the firings of its football coach, as well as the resignation of its school president, athletic director, and Title IX coordinator.
Ivy fans, in general, and Yale basketball faithful, in particular, are hoping for a strong return season from Makai Mason in 2017-18. Most, if not all, of these people will continue to cheer him on as he attempts to win a national championship, improve his basketball profile and enter the NBA. Many, however, will be looking to see if this well-known student-athlete will be a leader off the court. With his recent transfer decision, he can put the words of the Yale basketball team into action, making sure that athletes at two major universities affected by high-profile sexual assault allegations are better allies in preventing this dangerous behavior, while helping to create healthy, safe and respectful climates where all students can flourish. If Mr. Mason can accomplish all that, then he will have had two incredibly successful seasons.