Junior guard on pace to become all-time leading scorer in CIS history
Written by Jose Colorado for On Point Basketball
Javon Masters is a bonafide NCAA talent playing in Canada.
As a 19-year-old rookie sensation, Masters was shattering longstanding school, conference, and league scoring marks in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) with the University of New Brunswick (UNB).
Entering his junior season now two years later and following back-to-back CIS scoring titles, the Kitchener-native finds himself with a rare opportunity to carve out an identity through his impactful decision to stick it out in the Canadian ranks rather than jumping stateside.
“I definitely do,” said Masters when asked if he took pride in playing in the CIS and not the NCAA.
“The CIS is rising, some top level players are coming back or even staying here. Now don’t get me wrong, the United States is the mecca of basketball but now the CIS at least is producing some teams that are just as good – if not better – than some of the programs in the U.S.
“We’re getting better at attracting top level talent and not having them leave (to the states).”
One blatant example of Masters’ belief would have to be Masters, himself.
In two seasons the combo guard has already strung together a prolific resume with the UNB Varsity Reds.
As a freshman he led the nation in scoring with 27.4 points per game on 45.7 per cent shooting, finishing second for the most points ever in a single season in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) – his university’s conference – while shattering the CIS all-time free throws made mark with 215.
For an encore he repeated as the country’s scoring champion with 25.1 points per game while pacing the Varsity Reds to a first place AUS regular season finish – a feat not accomplished in nearly 50 years.
But while Masters is the most recent eye-opening talent in the CIS to merit NCAA consideration, he certainly is not the first.
“There are a few guys on every top team in the CIS who could easily play Division 1,” said Canadian National Team Head Coach Jay Triano to Jordan Ritter Conn of Grantland.
Philip Scrubb – the former Carleton Raven who graduated last season – exemplifies this sentiment.
Five consecutive national championships, two championship MVPs, the only three-time recipient of the Player of the Year Award in CIS history, and an overall 102-3 record – Scrubb is widely regarded as the poster child of excellence in the modern era of CIS basketball, and people outside the CIS actually took notice.
The point guard was invited to the Toronto Raptors free agent minicamp earlier in the summer before he helped the Memphis Grizzlies to the NBA Orlando Summer League Championship. He is now only one of two former CIS-graduates (the other being fellow Raven Aaron Doornekamp) on the Canadian men’s national team.
“I actually watched a lot of him playing in the (NBA) summer league,” said Masters. “I still have a lot of work to do with my game but Phil is definitely someone I want to emulate my success over in the future.”
According to Scrubb’s former Head Coach Dave Smart, the accomplished guard’s success points to a key factor into how the CIS can attract – and improve – its home-grown talent.
While top-level NCAA programs (e.g. Duke, Kansas) will always rule over the CIS, Smart believes the Canadian system can lure in mid-major talents as these schools don’t receive the same level of coaching nor much more exposure than the top CIS programs, resulting in a better atmosphere to improve and reach the professional ranks.
Indeed, Brody Clarke and Sebastian Denault both made headlines last summer for choosing the University of Alberta despite relatively strong NCAA interest.
While many of Smart’s former standouts have enjoyed successful – and well paying – professional careers in the past decade, including: Doornekamp, Osvaldo Jeanty, Tyson Hinz and Willy Manigat to name a few.
Now Masters, who currently is on pace to shatter Boris Bakovic’s all-time CIS career points mark of 2319 should the Reds’ guard use all five years of eligibility, certainly appears primed to be the next great CIS standout to enjoy a successful long-term career.
But for now he remains focused on the moment and the task at hand.
“It hasn’t really crossed my mind,” Masters said when asked about the prospects of playing professionally.
“If it comes up, it comes up, but right now my main focus is helping this program and the city of Fredericton bring home a championship which hasn’t happened since 1967.”
Photos Courtesy of the UNB Varsity Reds Media Department
Edited by Drew Ebanks