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A tall tale: Cox's dreams of an AFL future

Sneak peek: US giant's AFL trial AFL.com.au given exclusive access as club recruiters put the spotlight on Mason Cox
American draft prospect Mason Cox poses for a photo at AFL House on May 22, 2014. (Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Media)
Mason Cox's journey has taken him from soccer and basketball to, potentially, the AFL
I came out here for a reason. If it wasn't a legitimate option I wouldn't be here.
Mason Cox
MASON Cox isn't an AFL player – not yet, anyway – but he is already being recognised as a potential one. 

On the way to Melbourne for his week-long trial for a place on an AFL club list, the 23-year-old, 211.4cm American was at Los Angeles airport with his brother Nolan when some strangers approached him.  

They didn't know him from his brief stint with Oklahoma State University's basketball side, but for potentially being the next international Australian Rules player. 

"Before we even got on to the plane … we ran into two guys who played basketball in the States. They looked at me from the AFL website and said 'We actually know who you are but we didn't want to be weird about it'," Cox said at AFL House on Wednesday. 

"It's been kind of crazy, but it's a religion out here."

Cox is being converted. He arrived in Australia on Monday morning, conducting a training session the next day at Etihad Stadium before spending the day with Collingwood, one of four clubs who are in the race to sign him.

North Melbourne will get a closer look on Wednesday afternoon, while Cox will head to the Kangaroos' match against Geelong on Friday night as well as Saturday's Port Adelaide and Hawthorn clash. 

He will also spend a day with Richmond and the Power before making two key decisions: does he want to be an AFL player and, if so, at which club?  

"I came out here for a reason," he said. "I've got plenty of other stuff going on in my life. If it wasn't a legitimate option I wouldn't be here.

"I'm looking for the best opportunity out there."

Having been a soccer player before becoming a basketballer, picking up another new sport doesn't daunt Cox.

A centre-back, Cox realised that it was going to be hard to make a professional living out of soccer at about 17 years of age, at the same time as a big growth spurt. 

He started an engineering degree at college, and people began asking him if he had played basketball in high school. 

"I was like 'Nah, I didn't', and they were like 'What the heck?' so I started playing with those guys a bit. Every single day we went up to the gym and started playing pick-up basketball," he said.

Having been noticed playing at the Colvin Center, a recreation facility on campus, he was asked to train with the university's women's team. 

They wanted someone to replicate the presence of Brittney Griner, a 6-foot-8 opponent who had the edge over the competition, so asked Cox to fill in at practice. 

"She's like the Michael Jordan of college basketball. She killed it. I did that for about a year and then the men's team kind of caught on. One day they called me up and two hours later I was out practicing with them. It was just this crazy transition," he said. 

For the first two years he played very few little top-level basketball, but last season got "legitimate minutes" as a walk-on (a player in the squad who comes from the college but is not recruited specifically for basketball). 

"Walk-ons don't play, that's kind of a hidden rule within basketball," Cox said. "For a game in Texas … I wasn't really expected to play but it went really well. From then on I played almost every game."

Recently, his sporting ambitions took another turn, when he was offered a place to try-out at the AFL's US Combine in Los Angeles in April. 

There he impressed the six AFL clubs who sent representatives with his speed and agility, and was also the tallest player to ever be tested by the AFL in Australia or abroad. 

Things have moved quickly since, despite a job on offer with Exxon Mobil in Houston.  

After graduating last week from his course, he packed up his belongings at college and went home to Houston for a day or to have a graduation party on Saturday with his family before flying out. 

While his brother Nolan has organised all of his plans for the trip and been the linkman between managers, clubs and the AFL, Cox's parents have also been caught up in his next adventure. 

At that graduation, his dad stood up and gave the goal-umpire's two-armed signal. 

"It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. He's all about it. He thinks he knows everything because he's just been researching, researching, researching and my mum's fully supportive of the whole deal," he said. 

"She's been kind of like 'When are you going to settle down and do one thing?!' They've been proud of anything I do.

"It's a tight-knit family, but at the same time we're all doing our thing. It's not like going out to Australia is going to be something that's going to tear us all apart. They look at it as a great opportunity. Go try it."