They’re Biggie’s words, edited for accuracy. Not stolen, exactly, but adapted and adopted and filtered through the prism of another man’s experience. They express the truth as Javon Masters sees it, and at the moment they’re part of his message for the world.
“Stay far from timid,” Biggie said. “Only make moves when your heart’s in it.
“And live the phrase ‘Sky’s the limit. ’ ”
But Masters, the all-time leading scorer in Canadian university basketball, sees it differently, in light of everything that has happened in his five seasons at the University of New Brunswick.
“The sky ain’t the limit,” Masters tells his Twitter followers. “But remember to make moves only when your heart’s in it.”
Put another way: we’re capable of more than we realize. What seems possible only hints at our potential. And there’s an entire universe beyond the sky.
Masters knows this because he’s lived it. He knows it because he’s gone from small-city kid to one of the best players in the history of the Canadian game.
“As human beings, we’re able to do a lot of stuff that not many people think we are able to do,” he said in the hushed, raspy monotone that marks his interviews.
“But once you put your mind to it, anything’s possible.”
Masters does not remember the basket that started it all, but he’s heard the story so many times he can tell it in vivid detail.
He’s around two years old, living in Kitchener, Ontario, and his father Rooyan, a millwright who grew up playing cricket and soccer, brings home a plastic Fisher Price basketball net.
Masters runs and grabs the ball immediately, takes a shot, and it goes in—his first bucket.
“That’s pretty much how the journey started—me playing basketball here at UNB and just growing up in Kitchener, playing it as well, was that moment.”
Kitchener is a city of 233,000 people about an hour west of Toronto, best known in basketball circles as the hometown of Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.
Masters is three years older than Murray and they rarely played together, but he recognized Murray’s potential at an early age.
“Just coming from Kitchener, it’s really a small city,” said Masters. “So I mean, you’ve got to be able to prove yourself on the big stage, and he was certainly doing that from Grade 9 until he went to university at Kentucky.
“I always knew that he had the potential to do it. He just needed to just keep working and just block out all the noise and whatnot, and just keep focused on what matters.”
Murray played at Grand River Collegiate and Orangeville Prep on his way to a starring role at Kentucky and landing in Denver as the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Masters played at Forest Heights Collegiate, winning a city championship in his fourth season and attracting interest from NCAA schools, but no scholarship offers.
He decided to play in Canada rather than burn two years of eligibility at a junior college in the United States, and settled on UNB in part because it wasn’t known as a basketball school.
“I just wanted to go somewhere that I could develop as a basketball player and help build a program from the ground up,” he said. “And that’s what we’ve done here at UNB.”
Masters was an elite high school player, usually scoring around 18 or 19 points a game, he said. But as he transitioned to UNB he made an effort to get bigger, faster and stronger, and to minimize the weaknesses in his game.
“I had that chip on my shoulder to show everyone exactly who I am,” he said, with a hint of swagger.
“And now everyone knows who I am.”
UNB had its eyes on Masters in his senior year of high school, due in part to his remarkable quickness and a highlight tape that showed him diving for loose balls.
But it wasn’t until four games into his freshman season that it was obvious he’d be a star. The turning point was UNB’s home opener against the University of Prince Edward Island, where Masters had 44 points off the bench in a 93-81 win.
“Just being able to play through that … especially putting up that many points in our home opener, really said to me that I could be able to score a lot of baskets,” said Masters.
He became a starter after that, winning the national scoring title with an average of 27.4 points per game, as well as the national rookie of the year award and a second team all-Canadian selection.
Head coach Brent Baker allowed him to be himself on the court, and Masters continued to put up gaudy stats: 25.1 ppg as a sophomore and 28 ppg as a junior, winning the national scoring title both years.
“If you don’t allow your players to have confidence and play with some swagger and play with some toughness, then you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face,” said Baker, who was an Atlantic University Sport (AUS) all-star at St. Francis Xavier in the 1980s.
“As far as me letting him loose and doing what he does, Javon’s a pretty intelligent basketball player. As much as he scores, he doesn’t dominate the ball like you would think.
“He doesn’t have to pound the you-know-what out of the ball to be a good player. He spaces well without the ball, he gets his teammates involved. He’s not a ball-dominant scorer, and he’s not a volume shooter.
“I mean, he shoots 50 percent [from the field] and he shoots 90 percent from the free throw line. So he’s very, very economical in what he does.”
Baker and Masters have become extremely close.
“We talk about everything, just basketball-wise and life and stuff like that,” said Masters. “It’s really good to have a coach who’s like, super-chill off the floor.
“But when he’s on the floor he’s totally business, because he wants to win.”
More than any other lesson Baker has imparted, this one sticks: “Just be determined. Nothing will ever stop you, really, if you put your mind to it.
“He just has that type of attitude,” said Masters. “He always wants to win.”
Along with the gaudy stats came the knowledge Masters could eventually make history.
After his second season, it was obvious an all-time AUS scoring record was within reach. The national record was possible too, but nothing was certain.
Masters moved from shooting guard to point guard in his fourth season, filling a role Matt Daley vacated when he graduated in 2016.
His scoring average dipped to 19.6 ppg for the season, but his assist numbers jumped.
The National Basketball League (NBL) of Canada’s Cape Breton Highlanders also drafted Masters with the eighth pick of its All-Canadian Draft in 2016, giving him the opportunity to go pro.
“You can go play in the NBL,” Baker remembers telling his star player. “If that’s your goal, fine.
“But I think if you come back and you come back for your fifth year, your goal should be: ‘Hey, let’s get the scoring record. Let’s get an AUS championship. And all that’s going to do is further enhance your resume and make it better for you when you do get an agent and do get a contract, that you’ll be better off.’ ”
Masters agreed to come back and immediately started getting buckets.
He grabbed the AUS career scoring record on Nov. 17, 2017, breaking the existing record of 2,069 points set by UPEI Panthers standout Curtis Robinson in 1996.
In the months that followed, it became clear Masters would break the national scoring record, too. It was only a matter of time.
Boris Bakovic, who set the record with 2,282 points over five seasons at Ryerson and the University of Calgary, would be edged out.
“[Masters’] ability to be that consistent over that range of time is—for me, it’s the most astounding thing of the whole shooting match,” said Baker.
“They’re coming with box-and-ones, they’re coming with, ‘How we’re going to shut Javon down,’ and ‘How we’re going to do this and that.’
“And every night, he finds a way.
“Maybe it’s all about ignorance is bliss, and he just blocks it all out and just goes forward and has that drive about him and he goes and does it.
“But for whatever reason, he gets it done, and it’s all due to his drive.”
The national record fell with a free throw on Jan. 26, 2018, with 46 seconds left in the third quarter of a high-scoring home game against St. Mary’s University.
Masters remembers working through his usual routine: spin the ball, dribble it twice, spin it back, shoot.
“The game didn’t really stop,” he said. “We still had some possession to go, so I didn’t know I’d broken the record until the PA announcer said I did.
“It was pretty chill. I got a standing ovation, but I was still in game mode.”
UNB went on to win 104-96. Masters finished with 39 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and 13-of-14 from the free throw line.
“I’m not really thinking about it,” he said, referring to the record a few days later.
“All the hard work is really paying off for everything I’ve worked on—when I’m in the gym and whatnot, on the pavement back home.
“It means a lot of hard work and stuff like that that’s really helping me get to where I want to be.”
The season is winding down, and Masters is focused on winning that AUS championship.
UNB finished second in the conference during the regular season, eight points behind Dalhousie, the three-time defending champions.
Anything is possible, but UNB enters the playoffs as an underdog. If they win it all, the legend of Javon Masters will grow beyond anything he could have predicted five seasons ago.
“Just being able to be on top in my final year would be something,” he said. Anything is possible, but no one is holding their breath.
After the season is over, Masters hopes to go pro, either in Europe or in a North American league like the NBL.
“I’ll sit down after [the] season with my parents and discuss that,” he said.
But his love for the game is still here. He wants to keep doing this as long as he can.
“I mean, why would I stop now, after I’ve put so much hard work and effort in,” he said. “I’ll only stop when my body tells me to stop.”
Carleton Ravens set records in 129-44, 85-point beat-down of York Lions
The No. 1 ranked Carleton Ravens improved to 16-2 overall and 8-0 in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference action with a 129-44 — 85 point beat-down of the York Lions to set a modern-day U Sports men’s basketball record, for most points scored and the largest margin of victory in a OUA conference game.
The Ravens’ 129 points is the most points scored in a (OUA) game and the third highest scoring output in historic programs’ 58-year history. Carleton routed the Fleming Knights (CCAA/OCAA) 130-78 in non-conference win on October 3, 2009. The 85-point win is the second largest margin of victory in team’s history — including CIAU, CIS, OUA conference, non-conference and games against NCAA teams.
According to historic records, and stats guru Martin Timmerman, the Ravens’ also hold the bragging rights for the most points scored and largest margin of victory in Canadian university basketball history. The all-time mark dates back to the 1964-1965 season with the Ravens’ beating the Ottawa Gee-Gees 144-52 — a whooping 92 point victory in the old Ottawa-St. Lawrence Intercollegiate Association (IAA) conference which was part of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union (CIAU).
The OUA was formed on July 1st of 1997 in a amalgamation of the both the Ontario Universities Athletic Association (OUAA) and the Ontario Women’s Interuniversity Athletic Association (OWIAA).
The previous largest OUA margin of victory stood firmly at 81, 77 points respectively, dating back to two occasions involving the same two teams. January 15, 2011 — the Ravens pounded the now defunct Royal Military College (RMC) men’s basketball program with a 121-40 win in Kingston, Ontario. Two weeks later, on January 28, in Ottawa, the Ravens’ won by a easy 77 points, in a 101-24 cake walk victory.
The York Lions (7-15, 1-10 OUA) never had a chance — trailing 32-7 after the first 10 minutes and down 64-21 at half-time. The Lions allowed the Ravens’ to outscored them 35-15 in the third-quarter and were limited to just 9 points in the final 10 minutes — while giving-up an another 35-point-quarter.
Stanley Mayambo 17 points, 4 rebounds paced seven Ravens’ players in double-figures. Lloyd Pandi added 14 points, 2 rebounds. Aiden Warnholtz played a game-high 28 minutes off the bench and contributed with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. All of Carleton’s players scored at least five points and attempted at least five shots with only one bench player logging less then 10 minutes of playing time. None of the Carleton’s starting five logged more than 19 minutes of action.
Carleton knocked down 45-of-77 (58.4%) field-goals, made 15-of-32 (46.5%) three-pointers and connected on a healthy 24-30 (80%) from free-throws — while limiting the Lions to just 14-of-62 (22.6%), 4-of-20% (20%) from downtown and 12-of-23 (52%) free-throws.
Carleton, currently on a four-game home stretch will take on the Nipissing Lakers before closing out the first semester with a highly anticipated showdown against nationally ranked and cross-town rival Ottawa Gee-Gees.
Kadre Gray career-high 51 points keep Laurentian Voyageurs unbeaten
Kadre Gray scored a career-high 51 points as the Laurentian Voyageurs (4-0) stayed unbeaten with 107-77 win over the Algoma Thunderbirds. The reigning two-time U Sports Most Valuable Player (MVP) torched Algoma — shooting 17-for-24 (70.8%) from the floor and burying 9-of-15 (60%) triples including 8-of-12 (66%) from the foul line — adding 9 assists and 2 steals in 32 minutes.
Gray scored 14 points in the opening quarter and added 11 more in the second-quarter to finish the half with 25 points as Laurentian trailed the Thunderbirds 51-46. The former Rookie of the Year (2016-17) added to his count with 10 more in the middle frame helping Laurentian rally to take a 74-69 lead.
The Toronto, Ontario native doubled-up the Thunderbirds in the fourth quarter — scoring 16 points in 10 minutes as Laurentian outscored Algoma 33-8 to run away with the game.
Gray has been on a tear to start the 2019-2020 U Sports men’s basketball season pouring 40 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists in a win over the Bishop Gaiters just four days ago. The two-time first-team All-Canadian also racked-up 25 points against the Western Mustangs and 19 points in the preseason opener over the Waterloo Warriors.
Gray is currently averaging 33.7 points per game, slightly higher than the league-leading 31 points per game a year ago. Gray’s previous career-high was a 48-point game in 101-81 win over the Lakehead Thunderwolves on November 3rd 2018.
Kadre Gray on pace to become U Sports All-Time Scorer
With two years of eligibility remaining and currently sitting at 1549 career points the Laurentian guard is on pace to surpass UNB Reds standout Javon Masters to become the all-time greatest scorer in U Sports basketball men’s history.
Masters had 1608 entering his junior year and scored 799 in his final two campaigns to finish with 2407 career points — surpassing Ryerson’s Boris Bakovic’s 2319 total points. Kadre Gray scored 620 points in 20 regular season games last year alone and should he come anywhere near that pace this year and opt to return for a final fifth-year he could shatter the mark.
The four-year stand-out guard is coming off a stellar season and opted to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft and will once again look to make his mark on Canadian University basketball.
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