LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- If you scroll through Mason Faulkner’s player page on Ken Pomeroy’s college basketball analytics site, you will find several interesting player comparisons as you try to determine what kind of player Faulkner will be for the University of Louisville this season.
In fact, you can find Carlik Jones.
But before I get the numbers, let Faulkner describe the way he intends to play.”
“I bring that intensity, the belief in myself that kind of affects my teammates,” Faulkner said. “I basically feel like I’ve been one of the best guards in the nation for a few (years) and kind of going under the radar as far as being a mid-major player in the Southern Conference. Just bringing that fight, that confidence.”
In Faulkner’s first season, back in 2016-17 at Northern Kentucky University, Pomeroy’s formula identified Isaiah Canaan of Murray State as a comparable player.
Pomeroy is not saying Faulkner is the next Canaan, a guy who played parts of seven seasons in the NBA. Neither am I making that prediction.
But like the 6-foot Canaan, Faulkner is a bit undersized, especially for the Atlantic Coast Conference. He’s 6 feet 1 inch tall and 190 pounds. At NKU, Faulkner’s statistics showed high rates of assists, steals and two-point field goal shooting.
After two seasons at NKU, Faulkner jumped to Western Carolina in the Southern Conference. At WCU, Faulkner’s player comp changed to a guy that U of L fans know well: Jones, another smaller guard who excelled for U of L last season after transferring from Radford.
At Western Carolina, Faulkner maintained his high assist rate but became a considerably more active in creating shots for himself.
In two seasons at WCU, Faulkner had the profile of a ball-dominant guard. He took more than a quarter of his team’s shots and attacked the rim, averaging nearly seven free throw attempts per game.
A product of Caverna High School, Faulkner was a 2016 Kentucky all-star who comes to Louisville with five seasons of college experience: two active seasons at NKU, a redshirt season at WCU and then two more seasons at WCU, where Faulkner averaged 17.4 points and 5.5 rebounds over two seasons. He gets the bonus sixth season because the NCAA made one available because of COVID-19 hardships created last winter.
After five seasons of playing in the typically anonymous world of mid-major hoops, it is reasonable to believe that Faulkner will play with the edge of knowing this is his one shot in the bright lights.
“We have a lot of underrated players,” Faulkner said. “Myself and Jarrod (West, a point guard transfer from Marshall) were mid-major players.
“Being at a mid-major, you just have a different mindset about you, just feeling underrated. I feel like that’s going to transition to the game as well.”
You can argue that Faulkner was destined to finish his career with Louisville. Born in Glasgow, he grew up in a family that followed U of L more than Kentucky, especially with a cousin (former Card Tick Rogers) in the family tree.
At the end of last season, Faulkner was bound for Colorado, where he had the opportunity to replace McKinley Wright, one of the top guards in the PAC-12 Conference. During the summer, he reversed course. Playing at Louisville will provide Faulkner the opportunity to be closer to his seven-month daughter as well as other family members.
“I actually made the decision to come back home not knowing if I was going to be able to play or not,” Faulkner said. “Things just kind of worked out with Louisville having another scholarship. I kind of jumped right on that.”
In late-June, Faulkner had surgery on his right ankle, which bothered him for parts of last season. Faulkner said he has healed and returned to full-contact workouts.
“My ankle is doing really well,” Faulkner said. “I’m ahead of schedule.”
With Jones and David Johnson moving into their professional careers, Louisville will reshape its backcourt with transfers Noah Locke (Florida), El Ellis (Tallahassee Community College) and West, along with Mike James, a wing from Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, Florida.
“With the guard play here, we have a lot of competition for spots,” Faulkner said. “That’s all I ask for, just to be able to compete for something ...
“... Being at Louisville, it’s championship or bust. That’s definitely what we’re aiming for.”
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