LOHS scores 'incredible' girls basketball coach
Nya Mason is a former professional player with lots of team-leading experience
When Nya Mason was 8 years old, she discovered the only way her brothers would let her play with them was if she did what they were doing mostly facing off on the basketball court.
She didnt know it then, but shed found her future on that court. Nineteen years later, Mason has joined Lake Oswego High School as head coach of the varsity girls basketball team. She stepped into the role on Oct. 27, replacing Kevin Ruble, who took an assistant coaching job at George Fox University.
Mason has played at St. Marys Academy in Portland, in college at the University of San Diego and at the professional level. She knows basketball.
I was good at it, and Im a competitive person, Mason said. I fell in love with the sport at a young age, and its something that I cant really picture not being in my life.
Mason said she plans to build up the Laker team, which finished 9-17 last season and has had seven head coaches in the past 12 seasons.
Theres so much potential to have a good program, she said. They just need someone with the potential to stick around.
Athletic Director Brigham Baker said he is thrilled to have this incredible coach on board, because the team had been on an emotional roller coaster with their old coach leaving with the season starting in three weeks.
He said he understands that Ruble, who coached the Lakers for one season, had an opportunity he couldn't pass up at George Fox. But Baker wasnt sure he could find a qualified replacement quickly.
We ended up getting someone who is very qualified and is able to empathize with the girls, Baker said.
That's no surprise, because Mason has been in their shoes.
She graduated from the University of San Diego with a bachelor's degree in communications and media studies, but basketball has always been her true love. She played varsity basketball all four years at St. Marys Academy, where she was one of the few players to score more than 1,000 points. And she lettered for four years at San Diego, which made it to the playoffs while she was on the team in 2007 and 2008.
After college, the 6-foot-2-inch athlete followed her muse to Australia, where she played center in the South East Australian Basketball League.
My dad played at Portland State, and I look up to him very much, so it was a way to follow in his footsteps, Mason said.
While in Australia, Mason worked as the media relations manager of the Ballarat Basketball Association. She implemented a weekly program to teach hoop skills to kids ages 3-8, and that urge to teach has stayed with her.
Since 2008, she has served in a variety of coaching positions: assistant varsity coach at Riverdale High, St. Marys Academy and Lakeridge High; head freshman coach at St. Marys; and head coach of the Sixth Grade A Team for Lake Oswego Youth Traveling Basketball Association. Now, shes head coach of a high school varsity team of her own.
Im extremely excited, she said. Its my first year as a head coach, which is a little daunting but very exciting. Having been in so many different basketball programs as a player and as a coach, I think I have a strong grasp on what breeds success, and Im excited to bring it to Lake Oswego High School.
Mason said she has noticed a strong interest in girls basketball and is thrilled parents see the value in having their daughters in a sport and the part it can play in building a strong human being. Athletics shaped who she is, Mason said.
I think it taught me how to be a strong woman, and thats also something I want to kind of pass along as a coach, she said. Youd think any time a parent can see their daughter being empowered that they'd want to encourage that, and I think sports do that.
Baker said Mason has already been an inspiration to the girls shes worked with at Lake Oswego in the weeks shes served as head coach. The season kicks off on Dec. 2 with an away game against South Eugene; the first home game is Dec. 8 against Greshams Barlow High School.
Im hoping that Nya will find her niche here and want to stay here for an extended period of time, Baker said. She already was a great coach, but I think she has the potential to be a great coach here for a long time.