Rebounding the basketball separated University of Jamestown's Mason Walters from the NAIA's elite this season.
Developed on the concrete of driveways and playgrounds growing up, Walters realized that if he wanted the ball to be in his hands then he'd have to go and get it.
"I never really had a lot of sets or stuff drawn up for me playing younger basketball," Walters said. "My dad would always tell me if you wanna work out, we'll go work and get rebounds and then you will get the ball.
"So, I've just always kinda been focused on rebounding."
Walters led the NAIA with 361 rebounds as a sophomore and was one of 12 athletes named to the NAIA's first-team All-America team on Thursday. Walters is the 18th Jimmie men's basketball player to earn NAIA All-American honors and only the third first-team selection, joining Travis Burley (2011-12) and Brandon Wilkens (2003-04).
Walters posted per-game averages of 22 points, 11.6 rebounds and two assists for the 22-9 Jimmies, who reached the NAIA national tournament quarterfinals for just the second time in program history last Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri.
Walters came six points shy of breaking Jake Holen's UJ single-season scoring record of 687 points set in 2007-08, but the 6-foot-9 Great Plains Athletic Conference Player of the Year is already 31st all-time on UJ's career scoring list with 1,007 points.
The GPAC's Trey Brown, a senior center for Morningside, earned second-team All-American honors, and Alex Van Kalsbeek, a freshman center for Northwestern College, earned third-team honors.
"Just thinking about all my teammates and coaches that helped me and put me in a good position this year," Walters said. "It's pretty sweet. I never really expected it, but I'm appreciative of everyone that put time into me and it was obviously a great season that we had."
Walters led the NAIA this season with 23 double-doubles, beating Morningside's Brown by three. The Jimmies finished 14-6 in the GPAC, once again proving the conference's mettle.
"He's always getting tested, so our league really helps us as well," said UJ men's basketball coach Danny Neville. "That makes him look better in my opinion."
Walters' 361 boards shattered UJ's previous single-season mark of 333 set by Keith Kincaid in 1999-00. His 11.65 rebounds per game ranked fourth in the NAIA, and he's already fourth on UJ's career rebounding list at 562 with two years to play.
The closest player in the nation to Walters in terms of total boards this season with Jaylon Scott of Bethel, Kansas, with 337. Scott was also tabbed first-team All-American.
"That's a separator," Neville said. "A lot of people can score, but rebounding is an art and it's something that you have to have a knack for. Mason does a good job of positioning himself, he's got really good hands and really good feet, and he's really good on both sides -- defensively and offensively."
Walters reached 20 rebounds in a game three times this season, breaking Jordan Olson's previous UJ record of 21 rebounds in a game set in 2007 with 22 in a victory over Hastings College on Jan. 2.
"Playing those tough teams all year long twice really helped us and put us in a good position going into the national tournament," Walters said. "It really got me ready for what was to come and I think the sky's the limit for this team."
Walters finished 13th in the NAIA in scoring per game at 21.97. He said developing his outside shot and becoming more of a shot-blocker are areas in which he plans to tackle in the offseason.
Walters has 39 career blocks for the Jimmies and has splashed home 29 of 89 3-pointers attempted. Neville would also like to see a more consistent 12-foot turnaround jumper from the former Jamestown High School Blue Jay, which Walters flashed at times last week in Kansas City.
"I'm going to be in the weight room again, working on my vertical to try to block some shots and working on my lateral quickness," Walters said. "And then my midrange (shooting). My 3-point shot and a little bit off the dribble, too.
"I'm already looking forward to getting into the gym again."
Frightening words for both the GPAC and the NAIA with two years of eligibility remaining.
"If he puts in the same amount of work and time that he put in this past summer, I think he can make even more of a jump," Neville said. "He can get better. And, knowing him, he will get better."
University of Jamestown
2020-21: Mason Walters (first team)
2018-19: Kevin Oberwesier (third team)
2018-19: Jon Purintun (third team)
2017-18: Leighton Sampson (honorable mention)
2015-16: Brequan Tucker (third team)
2014-15: Brequan Tucker (third team)
2013-14: Mark Hoge (second team)
2012-13: Mark Hoge (second team)
2011-12: Travis Burley (first team)
2010-11: Travis Burley (honorable mention)
2010-11: C.J. Peeters (honorable mention)
2009-10: C.J. Peeters (honorable mention)
2007-08: Kyle Iverson (honorable mention)
2007-08: Jake Holen (third team)
2006-07: Lawrence Brooks (honorable mention)
2006-07: Kyle Iverson (honorable mention)
2005-06: Kyle Iverson (honorable mention)
2004-05: Jonathan Castillo (honorable mention)
2003-04: Brandon Wilkens (first team)
2003-04: Charles Jones (second team)
2002-03: Charles Jones (honorable mention)
2002-03: Brandon Wilkens (second team)
2001-02: Joel Nieskens (honorable mention)
2001-02: Beau Hensel (third team)
1999-00: Keith Kincaid (third team)
NAIA Men's Basketball
2021 All-America Teams
TreVion Crews, Bethel (Ind.); Jaylon Scott, Bethel (Kan.); Kyle Mangas, Indiana Wesleyan; Mason Walters, Jamestown (N.D.); Damek Mitchell, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho); Kadavion Evans, LSU Shreveport (La.); Zaccheus Darko-Kelly, Providence (Mont.); Joshua Kashila, SAGU (Texas); EJ Onu, Shawnee State (Ohio); Markelle Turner, Union (Ky.); Kevion Blaylock, William Penn (Iowa); Rayshawn Mart, Xavier (La.).
De'Ron Kyle, Arizona Christian; Jaiden Bristol, Benedictine (Kan.); Jovan Sljivancanin, Carroll (Mont.); Tony Burks, Columbia (Mo.); Tevin Olison, Cumberlands (Ky.); C.J. Williamson, Faulkner (Ala.); Zach Wrightsil, Loyola (La.); Cameron Wolter, Marian (Ind.); Trey Brown, Morningside (Iowa); Alex Gross, Olivet Nazarene (Ill.); Cameron Hines, Science & Arts (Okla.); James Jones, Shawnee State (Ohio).
CoreVon Lott, Keiser (Fla.); Trystan Bradley, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho); Leondre Washington, LSU Shreveport (La.); Terrance Jones, Mid-America Christian (Okla.); Dennis McKinney, Mount Mercy (Iowa); Alex Van Kalsbeek, Northwestern (Iowa); Brooks Haddock, Oklahoma Wesleyan; Jaquan Daniels, Ottawa (Kan.); Joel Polius, SAGU (Texas); Antwaan Cushingberry, Saint Francis (Ind.); John Kerr, St. Ambrose (Iowa); Trey Petty, Stillman (Ala.).
Angelo Johnson, Arizona Christian; Maurice Walton, Benedictine-Mesa (Ariz.); Shamrock Campbell, Carroll (Mont.); Kelvin Robinson, Central Baptist (Ark.); Tederick Wolfe, Central Baptist (Ark.); Malik Amos, Dillard (La.); Jordan Hamlette, Faulkner (Ala.); Kortland Martin, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.); Davonte Pack, Friends (Kan.); Kyran Jones, Georgetown (Ky.); Jordan Gaines, Holy Cross (Ind.); Seth Maxwell, Indiana Wesleyan; Densier Carnes, John Brown (Ark.); Myles Burns, Loyola (La.); Rodney Munson, LSU Alexandria (La.); Jakemin Abney, LSU Alexandria (La.); Henry Speight, Madonna (Mich.); Latrelle Franklin, Mayville State (N.D.); RJ Kelly, Mobile (Ala.); Sindou Diallo, Montana Tech; Jalen Hodges, Montana Western; Zach Imig, Morningside (Iowa); Jevon Knox, Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio); Kaleb Stokes, Oklahoma Wesleyan; John Contant, Olivet Nazarene (Ill.); Rodrigue Marthone, Park (Mo.); Marcus Stephens, Providence (Mont.); Shiloah Blevins, Rio Grande (Ohio); Virgil Walker Jr, Rochester (Mich.); Devin Merriweather, Stillman (Ala.); Darryl Baker, Talladega (Ala.); Kobe Powell, Texas A&M Texarkana; Vydal Bradford, Texas Wesleyan; Reid Jolly, Thomas More (Ky.); Kevin Schramm, Valley City State (N.D.); Isaac Davis, Vanguard (Calif.); Jack Monis, Viterbo (Wis.); Hector Rosario, Voorhees (S.C.); Rod Boggan, Warner (Fla.); Devin Avent, Wayland Baptist (Texas); Karmari Newman, William Penn (Iowa); Makye Richard, Xavier (La.).