By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 5, 2010; D01
They had a rivalry at age 12. Roger Mason Jr. and Keith Bogans have known each other for nearly two-thirds of their lives and had such intense battles in high school that their head-to-head matchups were moved to American University or George Washington to accommodate the crowds. From AAU to high school -- where Bogans teamed with Joe Forte at DeMatha and Mason was at Good Counsel -- to the NBA, the objective was always the same when Mason and Bogans got on the court together.
"We wanted to beat the crap out of each other," Bogans said with a laugh. "It wasn't no secret."
The rivalry morphed into a mutual respect and later became a friendship as the two shared careers in professional basketball and some of the same acquaintances, but they could not have imagined that they would one day become teammates. The idea remained outlandish to Mason, even after Bogans hung out with Mason in Florida last summer and called a few days later with a question.
"I was like, 'Where should I move at in San Antonio?' Rog was like, 'What you talking about?' " said Bogans, who signed with the Spurs as a free agent last September.
Shortly thereafter, Mason was driving Bogans around San Antonio, helping him get acclimated to the city he had learned the year before, when he left the Washington Wizards to sign a two-year, $7.3 million contract with the Spurs. Now the duo is hoping to help the Spurs advance to the conference finals for the first time in two years. San Antonio, which became the first No. 7 seed to win a seven-game first-round playoff series, trails the Phoenix Suns 1-0 in the best-of-seven conference semifinals, with Game 2 on Wednesday at US Airways Center.
"There is a lot of history between me and Boges," Mason said. "It's weird, just because we were rivals growing up. My mom was shocked, his mom, too. She said something to me because we were always rivals, but to be on the same team, it's been kind of fun, kind of cool. I was happy to have a hometown guy on the team. We share stories on growing up, DeMatha-Good Counsel rivalry. Go-Go music. Stuff from back home."
Mason and Bogans are the last two players remaining in the league from a heralded high school class of hoop stars from the District in 1999. That class produced five NBA players, including three first-round picks in DerMarr Johnson, Rodney White and Forte. Johnson spent his senior year at Maine Central Institute, but the other four were first team All-Met that season, with Forte earning player of the year honors. Johnson, Forte and Bogans were all McDonald's all-Americans.
"We the last two standing," said Bogans, who has averaged 7.1 points in seven NBA seasons with Orlando, Charlotte, Houston, Milwaukee and San Antonio. "My main thing was to keep working, don't ever get comfortable. It's always somebody trying to take your job. That's how I look at it. I'm always working. I tell Rog, he tells me the same thing. It paid off this far."
Mason and Bogans routinely talk trash to one another about their high school days, when their schools squared off two times a year. But they cannot agree on how those games ended. "He seems to think that he got the upper hand on us and I seem to think that we got the upper hand on them. The record books will have to settle it. I told him that. He doesn't remember when I hit the game-winning free throws at DeMatha to beat them. He don't remember that, but I do."
Bogans was seated nearby and shook his head when asked if he recalled that loss. "I know we used to win most of the time. I'm supposed to look it up to see what really happened, because Rog ain't going to tell the truth."
Mason remembers having to gauge himself against Bogans, who was always among the top-ranked players in the country. "He was the number one player in the country, freshman year, sophomore year, junior year, so ranking wise, he was always ahead of me, him and DerMarr Johnson. I scored 30 against [DeMatha] my sophomore year and it helped me get notoriety."
Although Bogans has always found a home in the NBA since he was selected 43rd overall in 2003, Mason has bounced around since his initial run in the league, having to scrap back after playing in Greece and Israel for two seasons, before latching onto the Wizards in 2006.
Both players will be free agents this summer and have been used sparingly this postseason. Mason had a terrific start with San Antonio, averaging 11.8 points and 42.1 percent shooting from three-point range last season, but he fell out of favor after a disappointing showing in a first-round loss against Dallas. He has been limited to spot duty, with the Spurs adding Richard Jefferson last offseason and George Hill emerging as a starter in his second season.
"It hasn't been a free agent's dream year, but at the same time, it's a different situation," Mason said. "We have a very, very talented team. A team that's built for a championship. To be part of that has been fun. Obviously, I would've liked for my role to be more the way it was last year, but it just wasn't that way. Wherever the chips fall, I know that eight or nine months ago, I was one of the go-to-guys on the team. And as free agency comes up, I'm hopeful that I'll have some good opportunities."
Bogans is used as a defensive specialist and has been asked to guard the likes of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Richardson this postseason. "It's a great experience for me. I've been in a few different places, but here, everything is done first class. You got a lot of veteran guys who have been around, like Timmy [Duncan], Manu [Gin?bili] and Tony [Parker]. They just do a great job of teaching new guys when they come in here."
It also didn't hurt to have a familiar face around. "It's a lot of fun, especially to be on the same team as someone you knew since you was a kid," Bogans said.