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After missing much of last season to recover from hip surgery, Cam Spencer relishing healthy, full-time return to Loyola Maryland men’s basketball

When Cam Spencer feels life is trudging along, all the junior shooting guard for the Loyola Maryland men’s basketball team has to do is talk to older brother Pat, who graduated from the same university in 2019.

“He does tell me that college was one of the best times of his life and that I should cherish it while I’m here,” Spencer said with a chuckle of his conversations with Pat, who won the 2019 Tewaaraton Award as the top player in college lacrosse and is trying to make the transition to professional basketball with the Capital City Go-Go of the NBA G-League. “When you’re in the moment, it might feel like the days are going slow, but you blink, and it’s already mid-December. I’m already going to be in the second semester of my junior year. So time definitely does fly. So I do try to cherish every day that I have here.”

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Time might have felt especially fleeting for the 6-foot-4, 207-pound Spencer when he sat out most of the 2020-21 season after undergoing hip surgery. But he seems to be making up for lost time this winter, as the Davidsonville resident and Boys’ Latin graduate leads the Greyhounds (6-5) in scoring at 18.3 points per game and steals at 2.2 per game and ranks second in rebounds at 4.4 per game and assists at 3.9 per game.

A healthy Spencer has been a blessing for Loyola and coach Tavaras Hardy.

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“This year, we knew we were going to have him from the start,” Hardy said. “He’s still working himself back because he didn’t play much in the offseason because he was rehabbing. But he’s just more ready to play right away. It’s really helped his game grow.”

Cam Spencer leads the Greyhounds (6-5) in scoring at 18.3 points per game and steals at 2.2 per game and ranks second in rebounds at 4.4 per game and assists at 3.9 per game.
Cam Spencer leads the Greyhounds (6-5) in scoring at 18.3 points per game and steals at 2.2 per game and ranks second in rebounds at 4.4 per game and assists at 3.9 per game. (Larry French/Larry French)

Spencer’s promise was evident from the beginning. As a freshman in 2019-20, he led that squad in assists at 3.3 per game and ranked third in points at 10.0 and seventh in rebounds at 3.4 en route to being named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team.

But he missed nine games primarily in January 2020 because of pain in his hip that he compared unfavorably to a knife sensation. In the offseason, he had an operation to shave down the head of the femur bone that was not fitting the hip socket.

Spencer had dealt with a stress fracture that forced him to miss a season of lacrosse at Boys’ Latin, but had never been sidelined from basketball for a significant period of time.

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“Being out that long, it was the worst time probably of my life just because I couldn’t play,” he said. “I definitely appreciate it every day now and look at it as a positive that I’m able to go out and practice every day and play games.”

While sitting on the bench for the first 12 games of the 2020-21 season, Spencer used the time to regain the strength in his hip and his conditioning.

“Honestly, I looked at it as a positive because with COVID hitting, half of the season was canceled for a lot of teams,” he said. “So I was still able to rehab while we weren’t playing. I tried to look at it as a positive and tried to rehab and work my butt off to get back.”

Loyola Maryland guard Cam Spencer, left, looking to elude North Carolina forward Justin McKoy during a November game in Chapel Hill, is at full strength after an operation after last season to shave down the head of the femur bone that was not fitting the hip socket.
Loyola Maryland guard Cam Spencer, left, looking to elude North Carolina forward Justin McKoy during a November game in Chapel Hill, is at full strength after an operation after last season to shave down the head of the femur bone that was not fitting the hip socket. (Gerry Broome/AP)

In five games last winter, Spencer averaged 10.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists, and the Greyhounds made a surprising run to the Patriot League tournament final where they fell to Colgate, 85-72, on March 14. Junior shooting guard Jaylin Andrews, an Owings Mills resident who has played with Spencer since they were at Boys’ Latin as freshmen, said the team’s finish drove Spencer during offseason workouts.

“He took that to heart as we all did, and he pushed himself in the offseason to get to the place where he is now so that he is able to play,” Andrews said.

Spencer’s productivity this season is in part a recognition of the void created when power forward Santi Aldama left school early and became the first Loyola player to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft. For his part, Spencer downplayed any notion of replacing Aldama.

“Losing Santi was obviously big,” he said of his former teammate, who was the only NCAA Division I player to average at least 18 points, eight rebounds, two assists and 1.5 blocks last season. “He’s a great player. So obviously, everybody has to step up in their roles. We also lost a couple of seniors like Isaiah Hart and some of those guys. So I just saw it as a next-man-up [chance] and am just trying to help the team win in any way that I can.”

Hardy, who has noticed a renewed emphasis from Spencer to attack the basket for pull-up jumpers, layups, and fouls, said Spencer is another piece to the puzzle in the Greyhounds’ offensive sets.

“I think Cam by nature can do everything we need him to do within our offense,” he said. “That’s the way Santi was as well. He can make shots from the perimeter, he can take it to the basket, he can make midrange shots. He’s just able to do that. He has a lot of opportunities, and he’s taking advantage of them. He and the rest of our guys knew that we wouldn’t have Santi this year and that they were all going to have to step up. So it’s just been good for him to be able to play his complete game with what he brings to the table.”

North Carolina forward Dawson Garcia, left, and guard R.J. Davis (4) pressure Loyola Maryland guard Cam Spencer (12) last month in a nonconference game at Chapel Hill. Last season, Spencer helped the Greyhounds make a surprising run to the Patriot League tournament final.
North Carolina forward Dawson Garcia, left, and guard R.J. Davis (4) pressure Loyola Maryland guard Cam Spencer (12) last month in a nonconference game at Chapel Hill. Last season, Spencer helped the Greyhounds make a surprising run to the Patriot League tournament final. (Gerry Broome/AP)

If there is one person who anticipated Spencer’s success after what he endured last year, it is former Boys’ Latin basketball coach Cliff Rees.

“Cam is a special talent,” Rees said via email. “It’s frustrating that he has had to deal with this nagging injury for so long because I still think it is limiting him to some degree. If fully healthy and feeling good, I think people would be shocked at how good this guy is.”

Spencer, a finance major, is pleased to contribute to Loyola’s winning record thus far. He would be even happier if the team could capture the program’s first Patriot League title.

“That’s 100% a motivator,” he said. “We all came back in the summer, and from day one, we knew what our goal was, and we’ve been working towards that. We know it’s a long process, and there will be ups and downs throughout the season. But we’re really motivated to get back to where we were last year and get the job done.”

Andrews said the team’s objective is within reach if Spencer continues his play.

“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “We believe that with Cam and this team that we have, we can accomplish a lot of our goals that we have set out for this team. We keep chopping the wood each day, and we’re trying to take that tree down. So I think with Cam and how he’s been playing and how he’s been healthy and everything else that we have, we can be very successful.”

Patriot League opener

LOYOLA MARYLAND@ARMY WEST POINT

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Saturday, 2 p.m.

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Stream: ESPN+

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