By Marc Raimondi
Diani Mason didn’t want just any old college last June when she graduated Bishop Ford. A nagging foot injury short-circuited what would have been a promising senior season and Mason didn’t have any offers she liked — some Division IIs, some junior colleges.
“I didn’t want to go to a school feeling like I didn’t do the best I could do,” she said. “I wanted to go to prep school, but things kind of fell apart with that.”
Mason, who was one of the best scoring guards in the city as a junior, played AAU ball last summer with SC/Ali down in South Carolina and spent the winter competing with PrimeTime Prep, an independent program that traveled around the country for games against teams like it. Instead of attending a school, she worked at Justice, a clothing store in Queens Center mall.
It wasn’t the typical path to becoming a Division I women’s basketball player. But that’s what Mason will be next year.
Last weekend, she signed a National Letter of Intent with Radford out of the Big South Conference and will head to summer classes there in late June. Mason, a Woodside native, found everything she was looking for with the Highlanders.
“It’s like a weight off my shoulders,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
To Mason, Radford is a lot like Ford, where she transferred as a sophomore from Academy of American Studies, a small public school in Queens. The Highlanders are guard-oriented and they play a fast-paced style. Radford, which first saw her in the summer with SC/Ali, finished 16-16 and 9-9 in the Big South.
“They weren’t always good, but you see them getting better,” Mason said. “They’re making themselves known.”
Radford, Va., is a small city with a population of less than 20,000 people. Mason said that didn’t bother her too much, because there are still things to do. Plus, she wants to be focused on basketball and school anyway.
Her future teammates are what sold her on Radford in the first place. Mason said the Highlanders were unlike any other team she’s ever seen.
“The team gets along so good,” Mason said. “They’re always together. They hang out a lot. They’re all goofy and I’m goofy.”
But her waiting for the right fit worked. Mason also had junior colleges interested, but she wanted to jump right into a four-year school. It was somewhat of a meandering journey and Mason admitted being worried at times, but it has all worked out for her.
“She felt it was best to wait for a situation that made her most comfortable whereas some kids rush into a situation for the sake of saying I’m a collegiate athlete,” Ford Coach Mike Toro said. “She will bring instant scoring to Radford and I wish her the best. She is more than capable of competing on the Division I level.”