Seventh grade is the time in Davon Joyner's life that he said he and his family moved away from Inglewood. One of the first things he recognized on the streets of Costa Mesa was something some locals might take for granted.
"There [are] people walking around. Out [where I used to live], there's no walking around," Joyner said before explaining why people stayed off the streets. "Back in my old neighborhood, it was dangerous, just lots of shooting, lots of just criminal activity. Police always around your house, at your house, too.
"My pets were getting stolen. I had a bunch of Rottweiler puppies. They were all stolen. I'm in love with pets. When they were stolen, I cried. That was heartbreaking. My mom was like, 'That's enough of this city.'"
Joyner was happy to leave, even though he sure missed playing basketball at the local YMCA.
Costa Mesa gave him a sense of a new beginning. A year later, while at TeWinkle Middle School, Joyner met Agustin Heredia, his future basketball coach at Estancia High.
The sport has been a part of Joyner's life since he was 3 years old and Heredia figured that out right away.
"He was in my P.E. class," said Heredia, who teaches at TeWinkle. "I got wind that he was going to come to school [at Estancia] and I was pretty excited because I saw a lot of potential in him in eighth grade."
Joyner is doing his best to live up to the expectations as a senior at Estancia. He is in his third season playing for Heredia on the varsity level.
Unlike the previous two seasons, the Eagles rely a lot more on Joyner. He is the reason why they are competitive because he can carry a team, as he did last week in two wins, one at Newport Harbor, a school almost twice the size of Estancia.
Heredia offers the best reason as to why the Eagles depend on the 6-foot-4 Joyner to score, defend, rebound, distribute the ball, and most importantly lead by example.
"As Davon goes, we go," said Heredia, whose Eagles are 10-9, 1-1 in Orange Coast League play. "If he's struggling, we're going to struggle. If he's doing well, we're going to do well. We're young. I play a lot of sophomores."
Joyner, who plays guard and forward, can relate to the younger players. He remembers his days as a sophomore, making the jump to varsity for the first time is not usually a smooth one.
The game is faster. The players are bigger. The coach demands a lot more, especially if the man in charge is Heredia.
Heredia knew he had a sophomore with a lot of promise in Joyner. The start to his varsity career began on a high note. In his first game, Joyner poured in 21 points in a win against South East of South Gate.
While Heredia saw a talented player, Joyner was raw. There were seniors around back then like Tim Neumann who led, leaving Joyner time to grow.
"He's always been the best player, even the last couple of years," Heredia said. "Last year, he didn't have to be the guy. He was still the guy, but just in a different way. This year, he has a target from the opponent. We have an expectation of him to carry us. We ask a lot."
Joyner understands this is his season to step up and he has elevated his play. He went into Friday averaging 17.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
The numbers do not mean as much to Heredia than watching Joyner buy into the big picture. Joyner wants to reward his coach by leading the Eagles to their first league title since the 2004-05 season.