Aarness reaches 1,000-point milestone

By Eric Erickson,
Sports analysis

Como Park senior captain Mason Aarness drove the lane, maneuvered around two defenders and released his basketball shot with a soft touch.

When the ball fell through the net, the fans in the stands erupted, the officials stopped the game and Mason’s parents were called onto the floor to celebrate a rare achievement — 1,000 points in a high school career.

To reach that special milestone, a basketball player must be a prolific scorer for a couple varsity seasons or average double digits per game for several years. Aarness was the latter — and in his case, there were five years of Como varsity basketball beginning with his debut as a 5’-foot-2-inch’’ Murray eighth grader.

He wasn’t scoring too much as a middle-schooler playing with the big boys. But Aarness was a fearless and pesky hustler.

That’s what then first-year coach Donnell Gibson loved about Mason and why he saw so much potential in him.

“He had the skills but didn’t have the size,” Gibson said. “But I knew he was ready for varsity because of his love for the game and commitment,” Gibson said.

Four years later, Aarness is still fearless, but he stands at 6 foot 4 inches and uses his larger frame effectively to score, run the floor, defend and rebound. He’s a talented all-around player who led the St. Paul City Conference in scoring as a junior, averaging 17.9 points per game.

Aarness’ physical growth was accompanied by the evolution of his game and that put him in the position to reach 1,000 career points as a senior. Not that it was on his radar.

“The number’s not something I thought of until during this season when coach told me I was close,” Aarness said. “I kind of pushed it off because I was just enjoying playing in the flow of the game.”

That flow involves scoring when the team needs him to, while also being a point guard who distributes the ball and gets his teammates involved in the offense. Aarness is frequently double teamed by opponents. The scouting report on the Cougars is to stop number four.

Nonetheless, Aarness is averaging 17 points per game again this season. He’s also providing leadership to a young team whose core rotation of eight players includes three sophomores, two juniors and fellow seniors Jr Mzee and Zae MacCallum.

The entire team enjoyed the anticipation of Mason hitting the thousand-point mark, along with a loyal fan base of parents and students. The attention wasn’t anything Aarness needed or wanted, but he was flattered by the support and felt the love.

“It’s been nice to get a lot of congratulations from people. It’s been a new experience. It’s pretty funny. And really cool to see people supporting me. Especially my teammates They’ve been really supportive throughout the whole season.”

Aarness is a three-sport athlete, but basketball is his favorite. He attributes that to the team’s camaraderie and the energy of a crowd in a gym. With his credentials, he’s been an obvious all-conference selection for a couple years.

However, cross country running is his most decorated sport. Aarness was an All-State runner in both his junior and senior year and has competed in three state meets with the Cougars. In the spring, he’s a track star who has earned All-Conference in the 1.600- and 3200-meter races.

In the classroom, Mason takes several college-level classes and is a straight-A student. The confidence to succeed, and the ethic to work have been bolstered by his basketball experience.

“Sports has this amazing thing of finding a personality and letting it blossom,” Gibson said.

“From eighth grade to now, Mason’s continued to make strides from sport to sport on and off the court. You can put him in any room and any setting, and he’ll fit right in. I’m truly proud of what he’s accomplished.” 

Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park High School and a longtime coach of school and youth sports in St. Paul.

Photo credit: Mason Aarness with his parents Anne and Phil after recording 1,000 career points during a Como home game on Feb. 1. Photo by Koua Yang.

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