Pat Spencer chewed up about 12 feet of real estate in about a second on a strong right-handed drive, deposited his shot into the net, and then let out a triumphant yell.
Sounds like a typical day at the office for the soon-to-be senior attackman for the Loyola Maryland men’s lacrosse team, right? Except that instead of working his magic on the turf at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore, Spencer was toiling away on a basketball court at Truxtun Park in Annapolis.
The Davidsonville resident and Boys’ Latin graduate is spending his fourth consecutive summer participating in the Annapolis Summer Basketball League. Aside from staying in shape, Spencer is using the experience to help him reach his ultimate objective: playing basketball for an NCAA Division I program in 2019-20.
“I’ve thought about it,” he said. “I’m not sure what my future holds right now. I’m just letting it play out as it goes.”
Spencer is on pace to graduate next spring with a bachelor’s degree in finance and earned a 3.5 GPA this past spring. After graduation, he will have one year of eligibility to be used for basketball.
He declined to specify which schools have expressed interest in him, but his former basketball coach at Boys’ Latin said Spencer could contribute to a mid-major program like one in the Atlantic 10, the Colonial Athletic Association or the Patriot League.
“Something will pan out for him,” Lakers coach Cliff Rees said. “He’s too special of a player and too special of a young man not to get that opportunity.”
Spencer said he began playing basketball when he was 4 years old, and he and a friend played on a youth team coached by their fathers. Spencer played as many sports as possible, participating in football and soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and lacrosse and baseball in the spring at an early age.
Spencer, who said he likes “lacrosse and basketball the same,” said the two sports share offensive philosophies, such as using picks to get free, slashing to the net, and driving to penetrate a defense or kick the ball out to an open teammate.
“The spacing is kind of similar to lacrosse, and a lot of the moves are the same,” he said. “A split dodge [in lacrosse] is kind of like a crossover [in basketball]. So the team aspect and trying to make the right play, it’s all there. It’s a pretty similar sport.”
Spencer helped Boys’ Latin capture its first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference championship in basketball in 25 years as a senior in 2016 and was named to The Baltimore Sun’s All-Metro second team.
But lacrosse is his bread-and-butter. In three relatively short years in lacrosse, Spencer is already Loyola’s and the Patriot League’s all-time leader in assists (166), the conference’s career points leader (266) and the league’s three-time Offensive Player of the Year. He is also a two-time first-team All-American and a two-time finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, which is the sport’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
Still, Spencer has never lost his passion for basketball, which is why he has played in the summer league in Annapolis and another in Baltimore. He was the league’s Most Valuable Player a year ago, but relishes the frenetic, physical nature more than any individual accolades.
“It’s tough to find good, competitive basketball on a day-in, day-out basis,” he said. “So to have a league where there is competitive basketball every week, it’s pretty fun.”
Spencer said he sought permission from Greyhounds lacrosse coach Charley Toomey before committing to playing basketball. Toomey said he signed off without any concern about Spencer suffering a serious injury that would take him out of lacrosse.
“If I worried about that, then I would never be able to have a vacation,” Toomey quipped. “But I don’t. I know he takes care of himself. He’s a heck of an athlete. I guess if that were to ever happen, we would deal with it at that point, but that’s something I feel like kids should be playing basketball and other sports. We encourage our guys to play in summer lacrosse tournaments up in Vail and Lake Placid. So why not get on a hoops court?”
In a recent game, Spencer’s Stanton Center team sought its first win of the summer against New Generation. Stanton Center trailed 35-28 at halftime as Spencer had six points, two blocks and one assist but also three turnovers, and New Generation got 19 points from former Prince George’s Community College and North County guard Gus Stone.
But Stanton Center outscored New Generation 34-20 in the second half as Spencer finished with 17 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and five turnovers. He also limited Stone to five points in that frame.
While Spencer was disappointed with his 6-of-10 shooting, including 0-of-2 from 3-point range, he has impressed others with his overall skills. Randy Gill, a former Bowie State point guard and street-ball legend who won the $100,000 prize on MTV’s “Who’s Got Game” in 2003, has gotten to know Spencer over the past two summers and believes that he can play at the college level.
“If you can play basketball, you can play basketball,” said Gill, who is more popularly known as “White Chocolate.” “You’ve just got to hold your own. If you do that, you’re respected, and I think he’s starting to get respected.”
For their firstborn's eighth birthday party, Donna and Bruce Spencer organized a series of games such as an egg toss, a jumping contest involving a trampoli
Rees, the Boys Latin’ coach, said Spencer is not as prolific an outside shooter as younger brother Cameron, a rising senior shooting guard for the Lakers who recently committed to play basketball at Loyola for the 2019-20 season. But Rees said the elder Spencer brings more than just scoring to the table.
“His biggest strength is his basketball IQ, and that’s very similar to the way he is in lacrosse,” Rees said. “He’s just very smart. It’s literally like having a coach on the floor. He could see and feel things on the court that as coaches on the sideline we couldn’t see. So we would call a timeout and say, ‘OK, Pat, do your thing,’ and he would help in that way. And he was so unselfish that he would come over say, ‘Coach, he’s playing so well. Let’s get him a couple shots and see if we can get something rolling.’ He was just a pleasure to coach from that perspective.”
As much as he enjoys basketball, Spencer said he yearns to bring an NCAA championship back to the Greyhounds to match the one the 2012 squad captured.
“I’m focused on playing summer basketball, but I’m also focused on the upcoming season for lacrosse,” he said. “I’m going to put everything I have into that and hopefully give it one last try for Loyola and my buddies and myself and kind of see what the future holds after that. I don’t have any plans. I have some goals, but I don’t know what will come my way. So we’ll see.”