Dealing With the Dirty Work

How sophomore Javon Greene impacts men’s basketball


Men’s basketball sophomore Javon Greene has always been surrounded by basketball. Growing up with an older sister who played AAU basketball, he was in the gym year-round, something he attributes to growing his love of the sport.

Greene is following in not only his sister’s but also his parents’ footsteps―his mother played basketball through high school, and his dad played at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Greene started playing when he was about five years old.

Growing up, Greene also played baseball and football. He quit baseball toward the end of elementary school. By seventh grade, he was left with the choice between football and basketball.

“My dad was saying just choose one, really,” said Greene. “[In] football, I was getting hurt a lot, so I was like, ‘You know what, let me just stick to basketball.’”

Growing up, Greene looked up to LeBron James for different reasons than many other young basketball players do.

“I had a book about him and … how he grew up,” Greene said. “His dad wasn’t in his life, and he was moving around to different high schools, so to see him become the man that he is now is really inspiring.”

He continued, “My favorite [basketball memory] would have to be when I scored 58 points in high school. That game―it was televised, [so] it was nice. I think my highest was like 30-something, so just scoring 58 points was an amazing experience.”

His performance, which broke a Holiday Hoopsgiving scoring record as well as his own career high by 20 points, gained the attention of USA Today. His 58 points also helped lead his team to a 92-89 comeback win.

Greene came to Mason even though it was far from his home of McDonough, Georgia, because of the bond between Mason coaches and players.

On his favorite part of playing basketball, Greene responded with a story about when one of his teammates hit his first three of the season.

“One time, Gonar [Mar] hit a three,” Greene said. “Everybody went crazy. [I was] seeing my teammates happy. When my teammates are happy, I’m happy, so I think that’s the best part about playing basketball.”

Going into his freshman season, Greene knew he was not going to make a huge impact. “I just wanted to help the team out any way I can,” he said. “Just find my role and just do it the best way I can do it.”

Last season, Greene played in all 33 games, averaging 17.7 minutes, 4.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

He entered this year with more confidence, having one season under his belt, something that has been noticed by head coach Dave Paulsen.

“He’s matured so much in his approach to the game,” Paulsen said.

“When he came in, he was a big scorer out of high school, and I don’t know if he’d ever played defense, and he’s emerged into an elite defensive player and has really worked really hard on that and embraced that.”

Through the team’s first eight games, Greene is averaging 10.4 points and 5.4 rebounds in 26 minutes per game. He leads the team in rebounding, and is third on the team in both points and minutes per game.

“[I try] just to do my role as best as I can do it, and my role is one to get rebounds, so I help the team rebound,” Greene said.

Paulsen also touched on Greene’s toughness, saying, “We’ve been working on him attacking the rim. I think as he’s adjusted to the pace and the physicality of the game, [and] he’s really embraced the weight room and getting tougher. He’s really realized he can really be a dynamic driver.”

Part of driving to the rim is drawing fouls. Greene made it to the line the second-most of anyone on the team, and makes his free throws at a higher rate than anyone else.

While he is just six free throws short of matching his total for all of last season, he has not always been one to drive to the basket.

“In high school, I was strictly a three-point shooter, so my dad was like, ‘You’ve got to switch it up, just don’t live on the three-point line,’” said Greene.

“That’s when I started attacking the basket and ended up getting to the free-throw line.”

“I’m really confident right now from the free-throw line, so I think that’s helping me a lot, too,” he continued.

Greene’s father, John, coached his son’s AAU team through the time Javon was in 10th grade. He continues to offer advice after games.

“After every game, I’ll call him and he tells me, not only the things I did good, ‘cause I know what I did good, (sic) just the things that I need to work on,” Greene stated.

“Like if I get beat off the dribble or something like that, he’ll just tell me that, and he’ll help me for the next game.”

On his performance, Greene said, “I feel like I’ve contributed a lot, especially on the defensive end, because that’s what we need. We need defense. We need people that can guard, so I feel like that’s helping me even get on the floor. And also rebounding―helping the team rebound and just doing all the dirty work.”

When asked if he minds that “dirty work,” he responded with a smile, saying, “I don’t mind it. I don’t mind it at all, as long as it helps the team.”

Paulsen believes the future is bright for Greene. “I think the sky’s the limit for the kid,” Paulsen said. “He’s very good right now, but he has not come close to his ceiling of how good he can be.”