Former Cowboy Basketball Player Shines At Australian Football Combine
STILLWATER, Oklahoma - Mason Cox wasn't planning on being a collegiate athlete, never imagined walking onto Oklahoma State's basketball team and certainly didn't expect to be flown to Los Angeles to try out for Australian Football League this past weekend.
But Cox is learning to go with the flow and when the AFL came calling, his response was, "Why not?"
"A recruiter saw me play against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament and I guess I had a skill set that they liked," Cox said.
That skill set has a lot to do with height and athleticism. Cox stands 6-foot-10 and weighs a lean 230 pounds. At the AFL Combine, he discovered he's the tallest athlete to participate in the league's 20 years of testing.
Kinnear Beatson, recruitment manager of the Sydney Swans, said American basketball players are the ideal type of athlete for the sport.
"Our problem in Australia, at the moment, is we really don't have enough genuine talls to service 18 clubs now," Beatson said.
Cox recognized his height made him stand out, but he wasn't as confident in his athleticism.
"I know people like (OSU teammate) Markel Brown and other people who can just jump out of the gym so I went up there thinking I'm probably going to get killed, but I ended up jumping higher than everybody except one guy from Kansas," Cox said. "At that point I kind of looked around and thought I might be a legitimate option here."
He went on to run the second fastest sprint and then really wowed scouts by winning the three-kilometer time trial.
"(Cox) ran three seconds flat for the 20-meter sprint, and 11.59 minutes for the three-kilometer time trial," said Kevin Sheehan, the AFL's national talent manager. "But it was more his skill overhead and his hands. He's mobile, agile, and a good decision-maker. He was the absolute standout, no doubt."
There he stood, labeled one of the top foreign prospects in a sport he'd never heard of until recently.
Australian football, or footy, is played on an oval field with an oval-shaped ball. It's a strange mixture of rugby, volleyball and American football. Eighteen players per team move the ball by running with it, handball passes (think underhanded volleyball serves) or by punting to a teammate. Catching said punts is called a ‘mark' and it awards the team an uncontested kick. This is the job of the tallest and most athletic players and it's the reason Mason Cox was brought to the AFL Combine.
So how serious is he about professional Aussie football? Serious enough to see it firsthand.
Cox said the next step is to take a trip to Australia to work out for individual teams. He's even trying to convince his older brother Nolan, another former walk-on to the Cowboy basketball team, to go with him.
But first he'll walk across a stage in Stillwater to accept his mechanical engineering degree. Cox already has a job lined up with Exxon Mobile which he admits would be tough to turn down.
Still, a call from the Australian Football League has opened the door for seemingly endless possibilities. Overseas basketball, volleyball, maybe Ultimate Frisbee?
"Hey if there's an Ultimate league, hit me up, I'm a free agent at this point."