Josh Greene has never been one to back down from a challenge on the basketball court despite being undersized at 6 feet tall.
A little more than a year ago, Greene and his small school, Community Charter, competed against high school-basketball powerhouse Leuzinger in the Westchester Tip-off Classic. Greene knew his team had a difficult test against a program that has produced the likes of NBA guards Russell Westbrook and Dorell Wright.
But the fiery competitor took it personal when Leuzinger guard Aqeel Quinn walked over to Community Charter’s side during warm-ups.
“When we were warming up, (Quinn) tried stepping over into our line and tried intimidating us because we were a small school,” Greene said. “I was like, ‘what’s up?’ You’re not going to intimidate me and my teammates.”
The 6-foot-4 Quinn wasn’t expecting to be stared down by the smaller Greene.
“I just saw the fierceness in his eyes and I just came to him smiling,” Quinn said. “We met face to face in warm-ups and then I knew it was going to be a battle after that.”
Greene, who averaged just under 20 points per game during his senior high school season, scored a game-high 27 points, but Quinn got the last laugh as Leuzinger got the 89-69 victory.
Greene grew a strong dislike for Quinn then. Little did Greene know he would end up becoming Quinn’s college teammate and roommate.
“I didn’t respect (Quinn). I didn’t like him at all,” Greene said.
Today, you can find the freshmen walking on the campus of Cal State Northridge smiling and laughing together.
“We live together, I see him everyday. No matter if I get into a fight with him, five minutes after practice I still have to see him at home. He’s like my brother now,” Greene said.
CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell said their close relationship has been a positive on and off the court.
“They are really good friends and both of them are freshmen that think they can whoop the world, so that helps them a bit (on the court), and they feed off each other,” Braswell said. “They come to the gym together, shoot together, work together, play together.”
After early struggles to the season, Northridge has turned it around by winning six of its last nine games. Greene and Quinn are a big part of the turnaround.
Greene has averaged over 20 minutes in the last 12 games and scored in double figures in the last three. He had a career-high 19 points in a road victory at Cal State Fullerton on Thursday.
The left-handed guard made six 3-pointers that night, including the game-winner.
Quinn, on his part, got off to a shaky start learning CSUN’s system this season, but has developed a comfort zone lately. The freshman, who has 21 assists over his last nine games, also had a clutch three-pointer during Thursday’s huge road win.
“These guys are growing up right in front of everybody’s eyes and stepping up,” Braswell said. “This is about the time of the year when freshmen become sophomores, and these guys have a lot of game experience and been around us enough to know.”
Both Greene and Quinn, two of eight freshmen on CSUN’s roster, were highly recruited by Big West Conference teams. Braswell’s four-year plan won them over.
“They got all of us freshmen as kind of a refresher to rebuild the program from the ground up,” Greene said.
Braswell, in his 15th season at Northridge, suffered his worst season a year ago when the Matadors lost 21 games.
Instead of bringing in junior college players, Braswell decided to take a different approach with high school players.
Quinn, who got serious interest from Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara, said talking to seniors Lenny Daniel, Dathan Lyles and Rashaun McLemore was a big factor in why he signed with CSUN.
Greene wasn’t too sure about signing with the Matadors, forcing Braswell to take a look in another direction.
“We kind of moved on to another kid we were about to sign and the day we were going to sign that kid we got a phone call from Josh (Greene) and asked if he wanted to be a part of our program,” Braswell said. “It was a day I woke up not even thinking about Josh and by the end of the day we ended up signing him to a scholarship.”
Quinn was pleased when he found out he would be teaming up with Greene.
“They told me they were going to get me a scorer and when I found out it was Josh (Greene) I thought right back to the (high school) game where he torched us so I knew he can score and that I would click with him,” Quinn said.
Greene felt the same way about CSUN signing Quinn.
“Q (Quinn) is a good pass first point guard. He can get you an open shot and is just a floor leader,” Greene said. “He knows what spot everybody needs to be at.”
Quinn and Greene had a tough time adjusting to collegiate level, but playing a rough non-conference schedule that included games against UCLA, Cal and Virginia Teach has benefited them during Big West play.
“We picked each other up and told each other that we will get through it,” Quinn said.
Even though Greene and Quinn have become close, they still have a friendly rivalry.
“I dropped buckets on them,” Greene said. “We (Community Charter) held it down for the small schools.”
“This is Leuzinger pride, (CIF) Division I basketball,” said Quinn proudly.
This time around, no love was lost.