FREDERICTON, N.B. — Replacing the all-time leading scorer in U Sports history is never easy to do, but it’s one of the tasks ahead in 2018-19 for the New Brunswick Reds.
Star guard Javon Masters graduated following the 2017-18 season, leaving a massive hole in the lineup for the Reds heading into the future. He was the only player to average double-digit points for New Brunswick last season, averaging close to 15 points more per game than his closest teammate on the list.
With Masters now in the professional ranks over in Europe, the time is now for someone new to step up and take on the lead role with the Reds. From returnees to impact transfers, there are talented options across the roster for head coach Brent Baker.
The Reds have transfer players who have experience playing in the NCAA and with other U Sports institutions, as well as impact high school players who will look to have an impact in their first season in the AUS Conference.
Coming off a year in which they earned a first round bye in the AUS Tournament by way of their 16-4 record, the Reds will be looking to advance back to the U Sports Final 8 tournament in 2018-19.
Last season, the Reds finished tied with the Dalhousie Tigers for the best record in the AUS at 16-4. However, given the fact that certain games count for four points as opposed to two in wins, the Tigers finished in first with 48 points while the Reds finished second with 40.
Regardless, the Reds earned a first-round bye in the league tournament, and they made the most of their rest.
In the semi-finals, New Brunswick knocked off the fourth-seeded Memorial Sea-Hawks to punch their ticket to the league finals. There, they knocked off the upset-minded St. FX X-Men, who came in as the fifth-seed in the tournament. The Reds’ 84-81 victory sent them back to the U Sports Final 8 Tournament.
Losses to the McGill Redmen and the Brock Badgers brought forth an early end to the tournament for New Brunswick.
The losses also brought an end to the stellar career for guard Javon Masters with the Reds, who leaves as the top scorer in U Sports history. Masters was the face of the Reds’ program over his career, and became the face of U Sports basketball on the East Coast in the process.
Last season, Masters averaged 24.5 points per contest to lead New Brunswick. He finished the season averaging close to 15 points per game more than the player with the second highest total on the team (Ibrahima Doumbouya). Masters also led the Reds with 5.9 rebounds per contest, and he finished second on the team in field goal percentage (50.7%) and three-point shooting (37.0%).
For his career, Masters amassed over 2,400 points over his five seasons at the University of New Brunswick, posting a career average of 25.1 points per game. He appeared in 96 league games, making 94 starts over that span. He will go down as one of the best U Sports players in history, and he helped to put the East Coast on the basketball map.
But, all good things must come to an end at some point. Now, the Reds will embark on a future without the Kitchener, ON native leading the way. The Reds also lose Spencer Dawson and Dylan Baker from last year’s roster. They do return some intriguing pieces, including Doumbouya, who finished second in scoring on the team despite being a first-year player in 2017-18.
Over the course of his first season with the Reds, Doumbouya made a name for himself as a player to watch in the coming years. The 6’6” forward out of Calgary, AB finished second on the team in scoring (9.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.2 rpg), while finishing third on the team in shooting percentage (42.1%) and three-point shooting (34.5%).
Doumbouya posted his stat line despite making just four starts and averaging 21.1 minutes per game over 17 league appearances. As a first-year player, Doumbouya put himself in a position to be an impact player for the Reds over the course of his career. As he gains more experience and becomes a stronger player on the wing for the Reds, Doumbouya has the potential to be the future face of the program.
On the back-end, the likes of Will Legere and Chris Spurrell could be in for bigger roles this season with the departure of Masters. Legere was the top scoring guard on the team last season behind Masters, averaging 9.6 points to go along with 4.3 rebounds per contest in his third year with the Reds.
As for Spurrell, the native of Quispamsis, NB posted 7.8 points per game on 41.9% shooting from the field. The pair of Legere and Spurrell will be looked upon to provide veteran leadership for the Reds in 2018-19, while also taking on expanded roles on offense to help fill the void left by Masters.
In terms of incoming talent, the Reds have an intriguing recruiting class that is headlined by forward Muckuoth Puok and Daniel Levitt. Puok is a 6’6” forward from Calgary, AB, and comes from Calgary’s St. Mary’s High School, a school that has produced former women’s standouts Tilly Ettinger and Claire Colbourne for the Reds.
Back during the 2016 season, Puok recorded 49 points in a single game.
Levitt comes to the Reds after playing with the Cleveland State Vikings in the NCAA. The 6’2” shooting guard averaged 4.5 points per game as a walk-on freshman with the Vikings in 2015-16 before suffering a season-ending injury after 14 games.
Last year, Levitt attended Arizona State University but did not play for the Sun Devils’ basketball team.
The Reds have assembled a talented group for the 2018-19 season despite the loss of one of the best Canadian collegiate athletes. On both sides of the ball, the Reds have pieces in place that will help them contend for another AUS title, putting them in a great position to represent the league once again in the U Sports Final 8 tournament.
– T. Bennett