published Friday, December 13th, 2013

Zaccheus Mason sees off time as prime time for Chattanooga Mocs to improve

Zaccheus Mason
Zaccheus Mason
Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Zaccheus Mason already has a sore knee.

His knuckles and thumbs may also need a little ice treatment during the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball team's winter break.

The senior captain said he has plans to bring as many teammates as possible with him every time he goes to shoot in the Chattem Practice Facility between now and when spring classes resume on Jan. 6.

"You can go knock on guys' doors, talk to them or send a text, a mass-text that says, 'So-and-so is going to the court tonight or in the morning,'" Mason said after UTC beat Hiwassee 86-68 on Tuesday. "I definitely will bring some younger guys with me."

That's what coach Will Wade expects from his senior leader, one of the top 100 scorers in the country. But Wade wishes UTC players wouldn't need such prodding. After all, the Mocs (4-6) have one victory against a Division I team this year.

"I've never been at a place, even at Harvard, where we had to beg guys to get in the gym," Wade said. "We beg guys to come work with us. It shows.

"The guys who work extra, the guys who work hard, they're the guys who play well."

Mason proved Tuesday that it pays off. Wade said Mason had a 40-minute shooting session in the afternoon before he scored 41 points against the Tigers on Tuesday.

That's one day of a little extra work. The Mocs have 25 days -- five are game days and another is Christmas -- before they set foot in a classroom on Jan. 7 after a Monday game at The Citadel.

"With us not having school, and us having a lot of free time, this is a perfect time for a lot of guys to get better, including myself," Mason said. "The only thing you have to worry about is basketball.

"Guys can get their game to skyrocket."

In a sense, they're professional basketball players because all they have to worry about for now is eating, sleeping, practicing and playing basketball. It's easier now that UTC has a basketball-only facility to which players have access, via key-card, 24 hours per day.

Players have had that access since they obtained a "Mocs Card," which is UTC's official ID and swipe card.

But some players weren't using it enough -- in Wade's eyes -- to enter the private facility on Vine Street during the fall semester.

As a coach who rises before sunrise and goes to bed after team curfew hours, he is greatly irritated by the lack of investment by some.

"You get out what you put into it," Wade said. "We have guys who don't work as hard on their game as they need to."

There are six Mocs who average more than 20 minutes per game: Gee McGhee, Mason, Greg Pryor, Eric Robertson, Lance Stokes and Casey Jones.

"If you want to know who works hard, look at the minutes of who played and who played well," Wade said after Jones tied a career high with 17 points. "Casey might be the most invested guy on our team right now. He's not going to lay down. He's going to will his way in there. He's got the want-to.

"We need more guys who have that."

Jones knows it. He said that he's willing to do something about it even though he's a sophomore.

"We have no days because we have to win," Jones said. "Now that classes are over, a lot of people are going to be in the gym."

Teammates opening the gym door would save a some wear and tear from Mason knocking on their apartment doors.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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