|Javon Masters, a first-year standout with the Varsity Reds.|
(Photo: Bronté James)
“As I get older, I’ll become smarter, understand more reads [and] put myself in dangerous situations,” he said. “It’s all just part of being a first-year.”
Masters, leading his conference and the country in points per game — averaging 27.7, seven ahead the next-closest in AUS play — has played more of his team's minutes than almost anyone in the country (381 in just 11 games), and is shooting 47% (43% on three-pointers). He's made a name for himself, locally and nationally, his results already on par with Philip Scrubb, Owen Klassen, Jahmal Jones, and other standouts across the country.
And like every great performer, he knows how to rouse a crowd.
In his games against UPEI in November, Masters put on quite the show for the fans. In his second game, dropping 44 of the 93 total points scored by the Varsity Reds, Masters would get the ball on a breakaway and slam-dunk, adding a little flare to the already-intense game.
Despite this being one of his most memorable games this season, it was their win against Acadia that sticks out in his mind.
The Reds were able to come back from an 8-point loss the night before and take an important victory over the Axemen, a top-10 program in the country. 42 points came from Masters himself, including 10 of 15 to end the first half and help UNB pull away early.
“They’re the standard to want to meet,” said Masters. “[And we] beat them by 10 on their home floor in front of 800 people.”
He said the team really came together as a unit and played the crowd and refs and “ultimately just beat them down.”
But every athlete has to start somewhere — natural talent or not — and must practice, practice, practice.
Masters can be found taking 500 shots a day and keeping up with his conditioning to meet the physical demands of the league.
“I put in a lot of work in the summer — I devoted a lot of it to getting faster, stronger, quicker, pushing myself to the next level,” he said. “So I can attest to my work ethic and how many shots I put up.”
And like any great player, there is always a weakness. For Masters, a more consistent jump shot and consistency in his defence are two things he needs to work on most. As well, 23 turnovers in 11 games, 27 personal fouls and only 25 defensive rebounds show areas to improve upon over his time at UNB.
“Sometimes I can be lackadaisical, so I just want to be more consistent on the defensive end, just being in help-side more,” he said. “[And] keeping my man in front of me and not letting him get past me.”
Coming from high school as a shooting guard, the Masters sees the physical demands of a higher level of play.
“I didn’t think it would be this tough,” he said. “But it’s getting tougher as the games go on, especially getting closer to AUS championships.”
It’s not just the physicality that’s getting harder. He also has to deal with the defensive walls being put up to keep him away from the net.
“This past weekend we split with Memorial University, and I didn’t play my best because they tried to avoid getting me the ball, limiting all my touches, always being aware of where I am and clogging the paint.”
He used it to his advantage and despite shooting just 10-for-38 on the weekend, contributed by acting as a distributor, getting the ball to teammates Will McFee, Jordan Irvine and Mark Matheson, to hit three-point shots of their own, and using the Reds bench.
No matter who they’re playing, where they’re playing, or what time of day, Masters prepares for each and every game the same way: lunch with the team four hours beforehand, headphones in, rap and hip-hop music on — particularly Meek Mill’s "Ima Boss" or "My Moment" by DJ Drama — and just going with the flow of the music, the same way he plays his game. And he doesn't plan on slowing down any time soon.
“The play is faster, stronger, quicker, guys are quicker and more physical, so it’s a real challenge to get used to. But as the years go on I think I’ll pick it up more and more.”
UNB, currently behind Acadia for first place on points but with the same 8-3 record, host the Axemen next week in their last meeting before the playoffs, after their games at UPEI tonight and tomorrow.