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His mother, who got remarried to former Washington Redskins running back Otis Wonsley, said she did not notice a dramatic change in her son. After all, he was always goal-oriented and never caused waves.

“He was serious from when he was real young,” she said. “Sometimes I wish he would act a little more normal and get into a little trouble like the other kids. But that’s not him.”

Roger put on a brave front after his father’s death but said it masked rage inside.

“I really didn’t understand it at first,” he said. “I was angry all the time. I used the anger and frustration on the court. I think that gave me an edge … Over time, I had a little counseling for anger and my faith in God increased big time. That just pulled me through.”

Not much later, Mason began to gain recognition for basketball at Friends, whose program was run by local hoops legend George Leftwich at the time. Leftwich, who played high school basketball at Archbishop Carroll with former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. in the late 1950s, also coached Wizards coach Eddie Jordan at Carroll.

Leftwich recommended that Mason find a school with a higher-profile program, and at Good Counsel, Roger developed into a top-50 college recruit. He went to Virginia and averaged 18.6 points as a junior in 2001-02. Mason left after that season when NBA representatives assured him he would be a top-15 pick.

That quickly changed in his first NBA workout in Detroit, when he went up for a layup and was knocked to the floor by another player. He suffered a shoulder separation that required surgery, was sidelined for eight months, and watched his draft stock plummet.

“I saw everything disappearing in front of me,” said Mason, whom Chicago selected in the second round (31st overall).

He rode the bench with the Bulls before they traded him to Toronto. The Raptors waived him in the middle of his second pro season. He went from Canada to Athens to Jerusalem before returning to the District. Mason credits much of his success to playing overseas, where he regained confidence in his feel for the game and confidence in his shoulder.

Last season he turned down a big contract — larger than the $1.1 million he earned in Israel — to play for his hometown NBA team. It did not immediately work out. Mason was again saddled on the bench, playing only eight minutes a game in largely a mop-up role.

However, at least one other team saw promise. The defending champion San Antonio Spurs offered him a three-year deal reportedly worth more than $3 million. The Wizards countered with a one-season offer for the veteran minimum of $895,000.

That was more than enough.

And now it will be a busy offseason for Mason. He should be a sought-after free agent this summer after making an unlikely impact in Washington.

“I only wanted a one-year deal,” said Mason, who credits much of his decision to stay from intense offseason workouts with Wizards assistant director of player personnel Tim Connelly. “I knew if I got the opportunity, the gamble would pay off. I worked on playmaking and ballhandling all summer. Little did I know Gilbert would be hurt and I would be playing more at point guard. It is no surprise it worked out.