Mason Madsen ready to put 2020-21 behind him

A required course is sometimes a necessary evil. It may be a bear to endure, but a student can't transition to the next level without it.

That pretty much describes the past year for University of Cincinnati sophomore guard Mason Madsen.

More:Wes Miller 'can't express' his excitement as he enters first season as UC Bearcats coach

As a freshman, Madsen suffered a season-delaying ankle injury, then Madsen and his teammates were held off of the court for nearly four weeks due to COVID-19. They then saw a triumphant end to the season be ripped to shreds by a 37-point loss to Houston in the American Athletic Conference tournament championship game.

That lopsided loss was followed by the stunning, unceremonious dismissal of one coach (John Brannen) and the celebratory arrival of another (Wes Miller).

More:Daugherty: UC's palace coup, 'Looks like we got the power back.'

"There's no way to simulate going through a college season," Madsen said.

Cincinnati Bearcats guard Mason Madsen (45) reacts after being called for a foul in the second half of an NCAA men's college basketball game against the Temple Owls, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Bearcats won, 71-69.

The most challenging lesson in Madsen's first year of college was learning how to go about everyday life without his twin brother, Gabe.

Mason and Gabe had been by each other's side since the two were born on May, 1, 2001, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The two even committed to UC together. But in December of last year, Gabe opted out of the remainder of the season, left Cincinnati and returned home to Rochester, Minnesota, leaving Mason alone for the first time.

Cincinnati Bearcats guard Mason Madsen (45) shoot free throws after the game against the Memphis Tigers, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati. The Memphis Tigers won, 80-74.

"When you are put in uncomfortable positions, when you have someone you've been with your whole life, you kind of have that outlet," Mason said. "(Gabe's departure) forced me to develop those relationships and dive head first into everything that was here. Just the opportunity to grow alone too. I don't think we realize when you're always with someone you know and have known since birth, which is crazy, the change and the growth process is different. So when you're alone, growth happens quicker and you change a little more. Even when we see each other when we go back home, we'll notice changes more so than if we were together all the time."

After entering the transfer portal along with several other of his Cincinnati teammates, including his twin bother, Gabe, Mason elected to stay put at UC. Gabe transferred to the University of Utah.

The 2021-22 season will be the first full season the Madsen twins will be apart.

Cincinnati Bearcats guard Mason Madsen (45) scores in the first half of an NCAA men's college basketball game against the UCF Knights, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati.

"Obviously, it's still hard because when we committed to Cincinnati, we expected to play together," Mason said. "I was just talking to someone the other day. When we played our last high school game, we didn't know that was going to be the last time we played together.

So, yeah, I miss him. More off the court stuff too, just having a person to hang out with all the time and having that relationship growing up. But I'm happy that he's happy. I think that's what it's all about."

Though Gabe left, Mason said it was important that he finish what he started and continue his education both on and off the court at Cincinnati under new head coach Wes Miller.

Cincinnati Bearcats head basketball coach Wes Miller talks with guard Mason Madsen during practice, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati.

"When Coach Miller got hired, he went about keeping the dudes here in the right way and said all the right things," Madsen said. "At the time, he didn't know they were the right things, so I knew it was genuine. ... When he came in and gave me his vision, I knew this is where I wanted to be. And obviously, the reason I committed here in the first place was the crazy fan base and playing here in front of them. I didn't get that chance last year so I'm really looking forward to that."

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