Before a Toronto Raptors game begins, the players of both teams take the court for their rituals — stretches, layup lines and maybe a flashy dunk to entertain the fans. But before or after the players take the court, some younger kids get the opportunity to get on the court to shoot around.
Some of these kids go on to love basketball for the rest of their lives. Some may not take an interest. But only one of these kids would go on to be the all-time leading score in U-Sports history before travelling to Spain and Romania to play professional basketball.
Javon Masters, former University of New Brunswick men’s basketball star, would go on to be that kid. Growing up in Ontario, he was able to attend Raptors’ games while they were still playing at the Skydome, a stadium designed for baseball games, before they moved to the Air Canada Centre, now Scotiabank Arena, in 1999. Since his father had connections with members of the organization, Masters had the opportunity to go on the game floor and shoot around after a game.
“I always try to watch as much basketball as possible,” Masters said. “You get to learn a lot of stuff and you can always add stuff to your game.”
Though Masters’ career went on to be one of the most successful in Canadian university sports history, finishing with an Atlantic University Sport title in 2018, three AUS MVPs and the 2014 AUS rookie of the year, he wasn’t always a top choice. Coming out of high school in 2013, Masters was committed to the University of Cape Breton before the school had recruited other players ahead of him. Masters decided another route may be better, later choosing UNB.
“At the time, they had a lot of talent at [Cape Breton],” Masters said. The university had just won an AUS title the year prior. “When they told me they had recruited guys over me, it kind of hurt a little bit. You just have got to move on, you got to use that as motivation and I did.”
Masters said he had no regrets about his decision.
Part of Masters’ transition to UNB involved recently retired head coach Brent Baker’s offensive strategies. Masters said it was a mix of the East Coast’s hard-nose style of play and a little bit of what he was used to in Ontario, such as isolation, pick and rolls and creating as much space as possible.
The offense certainly worked for Masters, averaging 25.1 points per game in his five years with the team, along with 4.6 assists per game. But for Masters, the most important part of his career was the 2018 championship.
“It was a perfect blend of everything,” he said. “Everyone was so hard-working, from the coaching staff to the players … I’m just so proud of those guys and what we were able to accomplish.”
Masters recalled the final seconds of the championship game against the Saint Francis Xavier University X-Men, where the score was 84-81 and the X-Men threw a hail mary pass. It soared over the head of every player on the court, landing out of bounds. The possession of the ball would go to UNB.
“I see the trajectory of the ball and I’m like ‘alright, cool. This is going out of bounds,'” Masters said. “I just don’t want anybody to touch the ball. Just don’t touch the ball … no words could ever describe that feeling.”