This interview was conducted in the Fall of 2013 following Micah Mason’s transfer to Duquesne University.
On a warm afternoon in September, Micah Mason is in his element shooting around at the A.J. Palumbo Center. He cannot wait for the basketball season to begin. Playing in his hometown has him ready to perform in front of his friends and family. But Mason will have to wait until next season to perform at the Palumbo since he just transferred to Duquesne.
Mason, a sophomore, transferred from Drake University this past April. Though this will be his first year at Duquesne, he does have some experience playing on the bluff, with Highlands High School
“My freshman year in high school we had one of our better teams and we played down here,” Mason said. “We played Hampton in the WPIAL finals, but we ended up losing.”
During Mason’s only season at Drake, he played in 30 of 32 games with 11 starts. He averaged 5.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He also was the top 3-point shooter in the Missouri Valley Conference making nearly 51% of his 3-pointers. Mason says that he enjoyed playing with his teammates at Drake and he learned a lot in his first year in Division 1 basketball. But a failed agreement from the university caused him to transfer out of Drake.
“There were a couple of health reasons. I’m allergic to gluten and grain,” said Mason. “They were supposed to accommodate food for me at Drake and it just didn’t work at and I thought that stuff would be easier and better for me around my family in Pittsburgh.”
The gluten allergy is a disorder in which foods that contain grain or wheat have adverse effects on the body. The National Institutes of Health reveals that between 5% and 10% of people suffer from some form of gluten sensitivity. Mason stated that it wasn’t until after his junior season of basketball he began feeling very sick, which is when he discovered he had a gluten allergy after being diagnosed with an illness even worse than the allergy.
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“After my junior season I started feeling really sick and went to the hospital,” said Mason. “I then went to a series of doctors who couldn’t figure out what was wrong, then I was diagnosed with POTS which I later found out 5 months later was caused by the gluten allergy.”
POTS, spelled out as Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, is a condition of dysautonomia, to be more specific orthostatic intolerance, in which a change from the supine position to an upright position causes an abnormally large increase in heart rate. Most of the people who suffer from POTS are between the ages of 15 and 50 and it can strike at any time.
One of the main ways to see if a person has POTS is to test the gluten allergy, which Mason was tested for. Mason was not able to play basketball for 3 months after being diagnosed POTS and was unsure if he would ever step on the court again. But after following the gluten free diet and getting his health under control, Mason was able to return to the hardwood in time for his senior season at Highlands. Mason says the diet can be difficult to follow, especially during basketball road trips.
“I’m allowed to eat any meats, fruits, and vegetables,” said Mason. “When I went on the road with Drake they normally got me a chicken salad or something. It’s actually hard on the road and something we are working on to get better quality food for me on the road.”
Mason was not only going through his illness following his junior season, but the dcontinue his basketball career. He began receiving interest and scholarship offers from many Division 1 basketball teams including Maryland, Butler, Richmond, as well as Duquesne. The decision was tough, but Mason decided Drake was the right choice and committed to the school in April 2011. Drake, Mason felt, has the best option for him at that time.
Even though he was dealing with these challenges, Mason was still able to leave his lasting legacy on the court at Highlands. Mason was a two time all-state player and led the WPIAL in scoring his junior and senior year. He also set the career mark for 3-pointers in WPIAL history a record previously held by former Duquesne basketball player T.J. McConnell.
Prior to his illness, Mason had a game for the ages in January 2011 of his junior year. In a conference game against Valley High School, Mason scored 64 points helping led Highlands to a win. At the time, Mason did not realize he had made WPIAL history. With the performance, Mason became just the seventh player and the first since 1994 to score at least 60 points in WPIAL basketball game. It was also the second highest point total scored in a WPIAL basketball history behind a 71 point performance by Larry Hardesty in 1959. His current head coach at Duquesne Jim Ferry says he loves Mason’s shooting ability, but sees him doing more than just that when he hits the starting lineup next season.
“We view him more than being just a great shooter,” said Coach Ferry. “Over the next few years we think he could be more of a combo guard that can help out not only on the offensive side but the defensive side of the ball.”
Now Micah Mason must play the waiting game until next year when he is able to suit up for the Dukes. It is a long road ahead, but he has been here before. At least this time, playing basketball is unquestionably at the end of the tunnel.