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Haddon Heights backcourt duo ready to step into the spotlight

They are the classic backcourt combination. One is a slick, quick point guard. The other is an athletic off-guard. They both can score, dish, and defend. They both are unselfish. They both are team leaders.

They are the classic backcourt combination. One is a slick, quick point guard. The other is an athletic off-guard.

They both can score, dish, and defend. They both are unselfish. They both are team leaders.

But there's something else that makes the Haddon Heights duo of junior Brandon Joyner and senior Davon Jones one of South Jersey's top backcourts: the element of surprise.

"People don't know about us," Joyner said. "That's OK with us. We look forward to anybody's challenge."

Joyner and Jones combined for 25 points per game last season. But because Jones missed nine games with a wrist injury, and because Haddon Heights operated in the shadows behind perennial Colonial Conference powers Collingswood and Haddonfield, the pair enter this season with a lot to prove.

"People that are downplaying us are going to get a rude awakening," Jones said.

The 6-foot-2 Jones is a slasher who scores most of his points in transition, on drives or off the offensive glass. He averaged 13.1 points last season as well as 4.6 rebounds. The senior set out to improve his outside shot this past summer, taking thousands of jumpers.

"Davon is one of the best scorers in the conference," Haddon Heights coach Mike Ricci said. "Not only can he get to the basket, he has worked hard at developing his outside shot to make him even more of a threat to score. His speed and quickness give him an edge on the defensive end, as well."

The 5-9 Joyner is a top athlete coming off a strong football season. He gained 1,198 yards as a running back for the 8-3 Garnets, and also caught 17 passes for 310 yards.

A clever lefthander, Joyner averaged 11.7 points and 4.7 assists last season. He's adept at getting to the rim and using his body control and strength to finish, or to pass to open teammates. He also has increased the range on his jumper.

"Brandon does a great job of getting to the basket and creating opportunities for his teammates," Ricci said.

Jones and Joyner both live in Lawnside and played together as middle-school athletes on a travel team coached by former NBA player Pervis Ellison, now the head coach at Life Center Academy.

But because Joyner didn't play varsity as a freshman, and Jones missed nearly half of last season, they are still refining their chemistry.

"We're pushing each other every day in practice," Joyner said. "We're always going to match up and go as hard as we can against the other. I want to beat him in practice and he wants to beat me, but when we're together, we've got each other's back."

Ricci said the two guards have a team-first attitude, putting the Garnets' success ahead of individual accomplishments or accolades.

"These two players are the best guards in the conference," Ricci said. "They play extremely well together and enjoy sharing the ball. There is no jealousy between the two of them.

"They are more concerned about winning than personal stats, which shows what kind of character they have."

Haddon Heights has not won a Colonial Conference title since 2000, when the Garnets shared the crown with Woodbury. But with Collingswood in rebuilding mode, and Haddonfield in a bit of transition after losing its top two scorers from last season, the Garnets loom as the favorites in the Liberty Division.

Haddon Heights also could be a major factor in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament.

Jones and Joyner are convinced that Haddon Heights is underrated among top Colonial Conference and South Jersey Groups 2 teams. Not that the backcourt combination is complaining.

"I like being underrated," Jones said. "Other teams can overlook us. We'll show them what we can do."

Top Backcourts

Here are some of the top backcourts in South Jersey boys' basketball this season.

Martel Johnson, senior, and Kashawn Dunston, senior, Atlantic City: Johnson is a three-year starter at the point, and Dunston is a streaky outside shooter.

Carson Puriefoy, senior, and Dexter Harris, senior, Bishop Eustace: These are three-year starters whose versatility and scoring ability have the Crusaders in the No. 1 spot in the preseason South Jersey rankings. Puriefoy averaged 21.4 points, and Harris is healthy after an injury-marred junior year.

Ron Curry, senior, and Kris O'Connor, senior, Paul VI: These guys are at their best in pressure defense and transition offense. Curry plays a complete game, and O'Connor is a lock-down defender. Both have improved their outside shot for the No. 2 Eagles.

Brandon Joyner, junior, and Davon Jones, senior, Haddon Heights: The two are the key to the Garnets' hopes for their first Colonial Conference title in 12 years.

Mike Greenman, junior, and Dom Palmieri, senior, St. Augustine: Both players saw important minutes as reserves in St. Augustine's drive to the Non-Public A title last season. Greenman is a top three-point threat, and lefthander Palmieri is a smooth slasher to the rim.

Josh Borelli, junior, and Ryan Bodnar, junior, Shawnee: They are deadly three-point shooters and smart ballhandlers who help the Renegades spread the floor and control the pace.

Tyrell Maloney, senior, and Ronny Paden, senior, Willingboro: Maloney averaged 18.1 points last season. He is a deep threat who will be perfectly complemented by Paden, a smooth swingman who transferred from Trenton Catholic. Paden has signed with St. Peter's.

- Phil Anastasia