By: Monty Mosher
It's hard to think about Javon Masters and his AUS playing days in the past tense.
A cursory look at the numbers indicate the guard for the UNB Varsity Reds can stake a claim to being one of the greatest players in Atlantic or Canadian university men's basketball.
The big number is 2,407 points, a national career record for either a male or female player. The five-time all-Canadian led the conference in scoring in four of his five seasons.
His 752 made free throws tops the previous record held by Acadia's Owen Klassen by 359.
To cap it, he helped the Varsity Reds to their first AUS title in Halifax in March, ending a 51-year dry spell. He was the tournament MVP, scoring 28 points and delivering in the final minutes from the foul line in an 84-81 championship win over St. Francis Xavier.
Final accolade in Vancouver
He is a UNB graduate now, receiving his degree in sociology earlier this month. He's already back home in Kitchener, Ont., getting ready for his next opportunity on the court.
There remains a final accolade for the season. Masters, 23, is the AUS male nominee for the BLG Awards, which honour the top eight male and female athletes in Canadian university sport.
Masters, Alberta Golden Bears football player Ed Ilnicki, Laurentian Voyageurs basketball player Kadre Gray and Concordia Stingers wrestler Francis Carter are the other male nominees.
Acadia Axewomen basketball player Paloma Anderson, Calgary Dinos rugby player and wrestler Temitope Ogunjimi, Ryerson Rams volleyball player Theanna Vernon and Montreal Carabins volleyball player Marie-Alex Belanger.
The awards will be presented June 4 in Vancouver.
"Now that I can say my UNB career is done, I can take time to reflect on all the awards that I've won," Masters said this week. "It's a special achievement – just all of the hard work I've done to get to this point and be recognized with all these awards.
"The nomination for the BLG is just icing on the cake for my university carer. It's phenomenal to be recognized for everything I've done for UNB and the AUS as a whole."
For Masters, looking back on his time at UNB is already tinged with emotion. Those feelings with be even stronger when he's in Vancouver.
'It's kind of sweet'
"I proudly wore UNB (on my jersey) for five years," he said. "It's kind of sweet. This award is for everything we've accomplished at UNB for those five years. It's phenomenal.
"Winning a title this past season, the first one in 51 years, and just representing ourselves at nationals and just having the whole support of the AUS through all these awards is really humbling. I'm a proud alumnus right now and come next year I hope the boys repeat and bring the banner back to Fredericton."
Time is a thief in university sport. Playing careers come and go quickly.
Masters and the Varsity Reds didn't always win. They had some sizable disappointments at the Final 6, losing opening games as a top-seed and a No. 2 seed over a three-year span. Masters, too, had to deal with some injuries and a role change on the floor that required him to distribute the basketball more often.
"But I would not change it for the world," he said. "Coach (Brent) Baker, coach (Don) McNeil and those guys, they really made my time at UNB very memorable. Not just basketball-wise, because that's at the top of your mind, but the interactions you have with your teammates and fellow students around campus. I will never forget my time at UNB."
In a media release announcing Masters as the AUS candidate for the BLG award, Baker called Masters "a man of the moment."
"Throughout his career, he's been a person who embraces and seizes the moment like no other, whether it's career accomplishments, which are many, or on game day, where he has had rarely an off day.
"On a night when he needed 34 points to break the AUS record, he scored 37 points. On a night when he needed 37 points to break the U Sports record, he scored 39 points. Both record-breaking accomplishments were in victories for the Varsity Reds. Hitting clutch free throws for UNB to win the AUS title just added to his legacy of clutch moments."
'You just want to hoop'
Like everything else in life after graduation, the world suddenly looks different. Masters is now in the market for pro contract and there is uncertainty around that.
"We've talked about it, me and my parents, but right now I'm focusing on myself and trying to be the best basketball player I can. But for sure there is going to be a decision coming here soon.
"I'm training with my dad and I have some other trainers here I'm going to be working with all summer as well. I'm going to be ready for whatever opportunity comes my way come late August or early September.
"Europe, Canada, the United States - it doesn't matter. You just want to hoop. That's my mindset."