By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Gopher men’s basketball team closes out its home portion of the schedule Wednesday night against Iowa. There’s no talk of NCAA Tournament positioning, just another Big Ten game, as both teams play out the season.

Nate Mason will play his final conference game at Williams Arena, and he’s seen a lot these past four seasons.

Last year the Gophers lost to Middle Tennessee State in the NCAA Tournament. Nate Mason played hurt, but he thought it was a springboard to this season — it was not.

“I read a quote, like, two days ago that said, ‘If the path you take is easy, you’re on the wrong path,'” he said. “So we definitely went through a lot of stuff, but I became a better man throughout this whole situation.”

He’s played this game at a high level — a floor leader who can score.

“You build quite a relationship, through highs and lows,” Gopher coach Rick Pitino said. “The one thing about Nate that I’ve always had is, we’ve had a great relationship, we’re on the same page.”

If college is about education, then Nate Mason was wildly successful these past four years. He’s seen it all on the basketball court, and believes he’s a better person because of it. That’s what happens when off-the-court issues and injuries define a season.

But for Mason, there’s been much more than that.

“Things ain’t going to go as planned. I think that’s the biggest takeaway from here,” he said. “It’s been a rocky hill, up-and-down, roller coaster-type of four years.”

And that’s what he will remember — that he came to Minnesota, and he learned a lot.

“It’s been lovely, man,” he said. “This was probably the best decision I made in my life so far, just coming here, being able to be a part of the Gopher family.”

Mike Max