Former Loyola-Maryland lacrosse star Pat Spencer has committed to play basketball at Northwestern of the Big Ten Conference.
Bruce Spencer told The Capital of his son’s decision on Thursday afternoon. Bruce and Pat Spencer traveled to Chicago together to visit the school and meet with head coach Chris Collins.
Pat Spencer, who won the Tewaaraton Award as college lacrosse’s best player last month, was expected to sign his national letter-of-intent later in the day. Northwestern cannot announce Spencer’s decision and Collins cannot comment until the letter-of-intent has been processed.
“I think the overall atmosphere, the coaching staff and the opportunity they presented for me to come in and, hopefully, contribute right away,” Spencer told The Capital when asked why he selected Northwestern. “Also, the Big Ten as a conference is one of the most competitive in the country. It’s just a great platform to display my talents.”
Spencer said he made the decision on Thursday morning after having breakfast with the Northwestern coaching staff.
“I had talked to my father last night and we both felt confident and comfortable with the situation,” said Spencer, who will head to Northwestern to begin his college basketball career after going on a golf vacation with father and brother then having a graduation party.
Because he completed four years of eligibility in lacrosse and graduated, Spencer can play another year in a different sport as a graduate transfer, according to NCAA rules.
Another high-profile athlete who played two different major sports at the Division I level was Greg Paulus. After playing point guard for the Duke basketball team from 2005 to 2009, Paulus started at quarterback for the Syracuse University football program as a graduate transfer in 2010.
Paulus served as an assistant basketball coach at Navy in 2010 and 2011 and is now an assistant basketball coach at Niagara University.
Northwestern plays Maryland twice next season, meaning Spencer will get a chance to go against a program many of his boyhood friends grew up rooting for. Spencer, on the other hand, has always been a Duke fan.
Spencer said he visited St. Joseph’s prior to traveling to Portugal with the Loyola lacrosse program. Billy Lange was recently hired as head coach at the Philadelphia school.
Coach Lange is a really good guy and presented a good opportunity,” Spencer said of the former Navy head coach. “The toughest part was saying no to Coach Lange because I really like him a lot.”
Spencer was a two-year member of the varsity basketball team at Boys’ Latin School in Baltimore. The Davidsonville resident helped the Lakers capture their first MIAA B Conference championship in 25 years and earned All-State recognition.
Spencer was named second team All-Metro by The Sun after averaging 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder played point guard for Boys’ Latin and totaled 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the B Conference championship game victory over Annapolis Area Christian School.
Boys’ Latin head coach Cliff Rees, who played basketball at the Naval Academy, was asked about Spencer’s decision to play in a high-major Division I conference such as the Big Ten.
“Because it’s Pat Spencer, I’m not surprised at all. We knew that Pat was a special basketball player when he was in high school,” Rees said. “Now, four years later, he’s bigger, stronger and more athletic. I’ve watched him grow into a man and become an even better basketball player.”
This past season, Spencer served as a volunteer assistant coach at Boys’ Latin, which posted a 30-6 record after losing to St. Frances in the MIAA A Conference semifinals. Spencer’s two younger brothers — Cameron and Will — played on the Lakers varsity in 2018-2019.
“Pat practiced against our players on a regular basis and he looks like a Division I player to me,” said Rees, noting that Spencer recorded five triple-doubles as a senior.
“I know a lot of major conference schools were reluctant to recruit Pat because he’s spent the past four years playing lacrosse. I’m glad Coach Collins took a chance on Pat, and I don’t think he will be disappointed,” Rees added. “Pat can do whatever he puts his mind to and I’m confident he’ll be a valuable contributor for Northwestern next season.”
Spencer played in the Annapolis Summer Basketball League throughout his career at Loyola and was the leading scorer for Stanton Center in two different seasons. Spencer was named regular season Most Valuable Player of the Annapolis Summer League in 2017.
Cam Spencer signed to play basketball at Loyola-Maryland and will be a freshman next season. Pat Spencer could have played hoops for his alma mater as a graduate student, but wanted to compete at a higher level than the Patriot League.
“That was something I really considered because of the chance to play with Cam,” Pat Spencer acknowledged.
Spencer said second-year Loyola head coach Tavaras Hardy recruited him hard, but noted the program is in rebuilding mode.
“I think Coach Hardy understood that because I only have one season that I wanted to play at a higher level,” Spencer said. “Nothing against Loyola, but I only have the one season so I wanted the platform that Northwestern and the Big Ten can provide.”
Spencer developed a connection with Collins, son of former NBA head coach turned analyst Doug Collins. Chris Collins is entering his sixth season at Northwestern, which set a school record with 24 wins and earned the program’s first NCAA tournament berth in 2017.
“Just an unbelievable person who has that competitive edge like myself so we really connected on that,” Spencer said. “I’m looking forward to getting after it for Coach Collins.”
Collins plans to play Spencer at point guard and believes he can become a key contributor as a rookie at the Division I level.
“Coach Collins seemed to think I’d have a real good opportunity to play and produce immediately,” Spencer said.
As a lacrosse player, Spencer was a four-time All-American and earned first team honors as a sophomore, junior and senior. He became the first player in Loyola-Maryland history to win the prestigious Tewaaraton Award since its inception in 2001.
Spencer was a three-time finalist for the Tewaaraton, often described as the Heisman Trophy of college lacrosse.
Spencer is the NCAA Division I all-time leader in assists with 231 and finished second in points with 380 – both of which set records for the Patriot League and Loyola. His 65 assists and 114 points in 2019 are both conference and program single-season marks.