Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Shiloh junior guard Nate Mason joined the Generals this season and has become one of the top guards in the county.
SNELLVILLE -- Challenges are implicit when you are the new kid in school.
It's a tricky transition for anyone. Seeking comfort in an unfamiliar place. Searching for acceptance while straddling the line of shy and overbearing.
Put that double on Nate Mason.
A guard from Columbia High School, Mason came to Shiloh this offseason for his junior year and just as he met his new teammates fresh off a playoff berth and a four-loss regular season, coach Kim Rivers heaped on more pressure.
"He wants me to talk more," Mason said. "I talk, but he wants me to talk more and more and be the vocal leader on the court. It is a big transition from my other school."
Rivers' desire for Mason to speak up coupled with moving him from his former shooting guard role to the team's point guard.
Here's the new kid taking the keys to the team.
"I have to learn to talk to my teammates," Mason said. "Since I am so new to the team I am trying to not (overdo it). My shyness has gone way down."
He looks comfortable on the court now. He takes the play from Rivers and sets up the offense, calmly correcting players and moving his teammates into the right spots on the floor. He chatters on defense to both his teammates and opposing players. He treats basketball as a show, albeit a serious one.
"I like to score. I am a flashy type of guard," Mason said. "I like to talk a lot of trash. Press up, defense."
And now it's the middle of January and Mason has taken control of the Generals. Not bad for a junior transfer.
But this is basketball in the era of AAU and cross-country travels, private trainers and position coaches. By high school any player of Mason's caliber (read: Division I talent) knows how to transition from coach to coach and through them all, Rivers is the first to lean on Mason and not just turn him loose with his quick feet, finishing skills and jump-shot touch.
"He told me when I first came here what was going to happen during the season. He really didn't butter anything up," Mason said of his early conversations with Rivers. "He told me he was going to be on me and he is one of the first coaches that have ever been on me. I like it. I like it when someone pushes me."
It reminds him of his mother.
Included in the colleges interested in Mason are Harvard, Princeton, William and Mary and College of Charleston, not to mention Florida State and Georgia Tech. But schools like Harvard and Princeton call when the talent dovetails with grades. Mason maintains a 3.8 GPA while taking Advanced Placement classes.
"My mom, she stresses the importance of grades in our household," he said. "I can't play basketball unless I have good grades."
And that would only be good for Shiloh's opponents.
"Nate is the catalyst of the team," Rivers said. "He is starting to feel more comfortable running the team. The more comfortable he gets, the better we'll get."