The pressure is off.
Now, when the Division II boys basketball tournament begins next Thursday, Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos de Niza junior guard Mason Stark can relax at the free-throw line. Not that he ever appeared jittery.
But he now owns the state record for made consecutive free throws at 46. He can add to that in the first round. Marcos de Niza (16-12) will find out Sunday who it opens against.
Last year, Stark came close to breaking the state record with 41 consecutive free throws. According to the Arizona Interscholastic Association archives, the state record was 43, held by Saul Bookman of Marcos de Niza in 1996 and David James of Apache Junction in 1981-82.
“I would say that when I start to get really close, I begin to think about it a little,” Stark said. “The fact that I barely missed it last year made me think about it a little more, as well.
“For the most part, though, I just try and focus and not worry about it. I am constantly working on my free throws, and I actually like feeling pressure. It helps me focus and make the free throws.”
Stark is happy to be playing at Marcos di Niza for his uncle, David Stark, who is the head coach.
“My nephew has always spent a lot of time in the gym, along with my son, Cameron,” David said. “I had them doing shot charts with their shooting drills and attending my fundamental camp since they were 5 years old. They have continued to be gym rats and are very self-disciplined and have continued their work ethic for the game.”
Mason leads the team with 16.9 points a game, making 90 percent of his free throws.
Cameron leads the team with 59 3-pointers, shooting 43 percent from behind the arc.
“It is a coach’s dream to have two players that work hard all the time, love and respect the game and play it the way it should be played,” David said. “I am truly blessed to have my son and nephew play for me, although it’s not always easy for either side. I would not trade the experience for anything.”