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More than just a game

When Harvey Mason Jr. went up for a jump shot during a practice, he immediately felt something wrong in his right knee when he landed.

The injury couldn't have occurred at a worse time. It came when Mason had been at his best during his four-year stint with the star-studded University of Arizona men's basketball team that had turned the corner and mushroomed into one of the country's top collegiate programs.

Mason learned he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and the realization of his playing career spiraling downward became clear. Mason wasn't sure what career path he would venture down because he had excelled playing basketball first at Crescenta Valley High and then at powerful Arizona.

"I was playing some of my best basketball, then all of a sudden my knee just buckled," said Mason, one of nine former Falcon standouts who will be inducted into the Crescenta Valley High Athletic Hall of Fame at 7 p.m. today at Angeles National Golf Club in Sunland. "That was during the 1989-90 season.

"There was a lot of sadness and disappointment because I was playing well and we were doing well as a team. Just the timing of it made it tough. The injury changed my focus and luckily I had another talent."

Basketball suddenly didn't seem as important as it once did for Mason, a guard who scored 1,834 career points at Crescenta Valley.

Mason averaged four points per game in 115 contests at Arizona under legendary Coach Lute Olson and played alongside teammates and future NBA stars Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott, as well as Major League Baseball All-Star Kenny Lofton.

He played a key role in helping the Wildcats advance to the program's first Final Four appearance in 1988 and win three Pacific-10 Conference championships.

Fortunately for Mason, who graduated from Crescenta Valley in 1986, he had another talent and a creative mind to carry it out and get him to where he is today as a successful songwriter and producer.

Mason learned some of the key facets surrounding the entertainment business from his father, Harvey, Sr. The elder Mason is an accomplished jazz drummer who has worked with music icons like Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock. The younger Mason wrote his first song, "Love Makes It Better," when he was 8 that was recorded and released by noted saxophonist Grover Washington Jr.

Away from the court, Mason, 41, continued to hone his skills in the industry. Mason has worked with an impressive core of talented mega stars like Elton John, Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin. He went on to co-produce the soundtrack to "Dreamgirls," which netted a trio of Academy Award-nominated tunes.

"You get to work with a lot of great people in this business," said Mason, a Manhattan Beach resident. "People want to hear a great song.

"It helped that I grew up around music with my dad and saw the things that he was able to accomplish. My dad showed me the way. I watched and learned the examples that he had set."

Mason apparently learned plenty from his father.

The younger Mason formed his North Hollywood-based independent company, Harvey Mason Media, nearly two years ago. It's his sanctuary where he writes dozens of songs a year and works on documentaries.

Basketball will occasionally come up with Mason during his songwriting craft. While he will occasionally still play the game and returns to the annual Crescenta Valley alumni game each November, Mason recently produced a song for Jennifer Hudson titled "One Shining Moment." The updated song was the unofficial anthem for the recently concluded NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Mason also produced the feature film "More Than A Game" in 2009. The picture showed the rise of current NBA standout LeBron James and his high school teammates from their early Amateur Athletic Union basketball days to the high school national championship stage.

The film received rave reviews when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2008, where it was first runner-up to best film "Slumdog Millionaire," which eventually won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

"It was a great project and it took sheer luck," Mason said. "I always want to go out there and explore things. I've been lucky to have a lot of great people around me. It was great to work with somebody like LeBron.

"In this business, half of the job is about the business-related side, record labels and working with staff on things like budgets and billing. The other half is about being creative in writing new songs, finishing songs, putting people in the [recording] booth and working a lot with engineers. Some weeks are more intense than others, but I like what I'm doing."

Mason enjoyed a splendid playing career at Crescenta Valley. Under Coach John Goffredo, Mason quickly soared to the top while playing for the Falcons from 1984-86.

Mason averaged 28.6 points per game during the 1984-85 season and 25.7 points per game the following campaign. He was the CIF Southern Section's leading scorer both seasons and earned All-American accolades in 1986.

Mason played on the school's sophomore team during his freshman season after being cut by his eighth-grade team at Clark Middle School.

"Basketball wasn't a natural," said Mason, who was the team's most valuable player for three seasons in a row and secured All-Pacific League honors. "I was just gifted and quick, but I didn't know a lot about basketball.

"The coaching from Coach Goffredo was so good that I was ahead of my time when I left CV and went to Arizona. Some of the things that Coach Olson was teaching I had already learned from Coach Goffredo."

Crescenta Valley finished 14-9 and didn't appear in the playoffs during Mason's first season. However, they regrouped with Mason serving as the team captain to go 20-8 in 1985 and 18-8 in 1986 and qualified for the postseason after taking second in the Pacific League both seasons.

Crescenta Valley had stellar players surrounding Mason, including Drew Haberl, Mark Potter, Jon Ellis and Mike McGeagh.

"The experience I had at CV was unbelievable," Mason said. "Coach Goffredo set the bar very high for us because he had very high expectations and he wanted you playing at your best."

Goffredo, who coached at Crescenta Valley from 1978-97, figured he had an elite player in Mason who could help reinvigorate the program's pride and tradition.

Once Mason became comfortable, the Falcons soared.

"He got really serious about playing basketball," Goffredo said. "I told him toward the end of his freshman year that he would be on the varsity team but wasn't sure if he'd start.

"He was an incredible athlete and an electrifying player who could block shots and was tough in one-on-one situations. He's one of the greatest players I ever coached and he was recruited by a lot of schools. Whatever he chose to do after he injured his knee didn't surprise me because you knew he would be successful and he's had a lot of success in the recording industry."

Haberl a starting guard/forward, said Mason became a better player each season with Crescenta Valley.

Haberl added Mason provided the Falcons with a major presence against many of the top teams the program competed against.

"He was mostly a scorer, but he was completely unselfish," said Haberl, a two-time All-CIF member. "He had great moves and was difficult to guard.

"He was able to cover a lot of ground. He's been thriving in his music business. I see his name and I tell my family that I know him and played with him."

On Saturday, Mason will be reunited with Goffredo and some of his former teammates, reminiscing about some of the program's top moments from that era.

"I got to play alongside a lot of great players at CV," Mason said. "To be recognized by these people feels good because we were able to accomplish something special.

"Anytime I'm at CV, it feels good. It's nice to know I'll have a little place in the hall of fame."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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