When he was being recruited to play college basketball while in high school, Mason Tapp didn’t mind getting a helping hand.

Tapp is a 2019 Hayfield High School graduate who just completed his freshman year at NCAA Division III University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

“I just know I always looked at St. Thomas and their tradition as something I wanted to be a part of so they were always kind of in the back of my mind, hoping they would contact me.” Tapp said. “And eventually they did and that was the point where I pretty much knew that was the school I wanted to go to.”

Colleges, mostly at the Division III level, first started contacting Tapp prior to his junior season at Hayfield. He wasn’t sure of the recruiting process, so he leaned on Hayfield boys basketball coach Chris Pack.

“Something that helped me a lot was my high school coach, Chris Pack,” Tapp said. “He really reached out to all the schools I really wanted him to, and that was huge.”

Pack helped Tapp put together a highlight film and often contacted some of the colleges that the 6-foot-6 guard was interested in.

COACH HELPS OUT

“I sent out some clips to pretty much all the D-III and D-II coaches in the area,” Pack said. “Just to get his name out because he was hurt most of his junior year, (which) didn’t help with the recruiting for him.”

Tapp was also coming from a smaller school which he thought might have limited some of his exposure. But he also drew interest from college coaches while playing on the summer AAU circuit.

He said he was contacted seriously by about 15 schools overall. He visited six to eight colleges before he picked St. Thomas.

“He had a lot of coaches in contact, and there were multiple coaches at a lot of his games the last half of his senior year,” Pack said. “We were always talking with coaches after the game.”

“All the coaches were really nice,” Tapp said. “They were trying to get me, so they’re going to be nice, but they just told me how I’d fit in and how I’d go about things there.”

Tapp said he chose St. Thomas due to “the tradition of winning and the way they play basketball. They play really fast; that’s something I want to be a part of. What they said to me, I really liked and I thought that was the best fit for me for my education and sports.”

INJURED FRESHMAN SEASON

His freshman season turned out to be frustrating, due to an injury. Tapp hurt his hip the first week of practice and missed the entire season. He realized his playing time probably would have been limited anyway.

“There could have been a chance of playing, but a lot of freshmen don’t play a ton at St. Thomas,” he said. “It wasn’t a huge downfall, but obviously I would have loved to be playing and maybe I could have had a chance to play.”

Tapp recently recovered from his injury, though now playing against others has been limited due to COVID-19. There is a basketball shed at his home in Hayfield that features hoops and a weight room, which has helped him during the pandemic.

“I haven’t really been able to play in full since the pandemic, because right when I’m starting to be able to play, the availability to get in a gym isn’t there,” he said. “But I’ve been able to do my stuff in my shed which is good. I’ve been able to work out and get back to the shape I need to be.”

He is obviously hoping to have a positive impact at St. Thomas during the 2020-21 season.

“Everything was how they told me; it was all really good,” he said. “I’m glad with my decision.”

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THE RECRUITING TRAIL

TODAY — Recruited and Playing. Athletes who have gone through the recruiting process and are playing college sports: Gabby Bowlin, Josh Navratil, Taylor Heise, Mason Tapp, Nadia Lowery, Thomas Bruss.

July 15 — Recruiting at Junior Colleges: What challenges do JuCo coaches face in the recruiting process? Why do athletes choose the JuCo route? What role do academic advisors play?

July 16 — Coaches perspective: Coaches at different levels talk about their recruiting philosophies and practices.

July 17 — Recruited and Waiting: We talk to athletes who have made college commitments but have yet to arrive on campus. How are they handling this period of waiting and wondering might happen to their first semester of college?

July 18 — Technology and Social Media: How has social media changed recruiting for coaches and athletes?

July 19 — A Different Animal: Junior Hockey. Men’s hockey is unique to this process in that there is a middle ground between high school and college that most players must pass through.

July 20 — Recruiting Targets: Current high school athletes tell us what their recruiting experiences have been like so far, and how they plan to handle the rest of the process.

July 21 — Borderline Decisions: How does an athlete decide between playing for a Division I school or a Division II or Division III school? Or going to junior college?

July 22 — Two-Sport College Athletes: What is the recruiting process like for athletes who want to play more than one sport in college?

July 23 — Evolution of Recruiting: We talk to athletes from five decades to find out what their recruiting experience was like and how it has changed over the years.