Small schools in Division I men's lacrosse have to survive by finding "late blooming" players. Loyola has one of the best in the country in freshman attackman Pat Spencer.
Spencer, from Davidsonville and a graduate of Boys Latin, leads the No. 8 Greyhounds in points with eight goals and 13 assists, and has been selected Patriot League Rookie of the Week twice.
So for all those big-time schools like Virginia and Johns Hopkins that engage in early recruiting, they missed out on this one.
"Loyola has been good to me," said Spencer. "They don't over-recruit and they left a spot open in their recruiting class for a player like me. I was definitely a late bloomer."
You can't tell that now. Spencer, though, does look out of place at Loyola. He is 6-3 and 190 pounds, the prototype attackman usually found at big-time lacrosse powers.
On Loyola's campus, a lot of their lacrosse players were either too slow, too small or too something in their freshman and sophomore years to be recruited by the bigger schools.
Spencer was ignored, too.
"I was always getting cut," said Spencer. "I got cut from the varsity lacrosse and varsity basketball teams in high school. I got cut by the Crabs [club lacrosse]. They were always telling me I was too small."
Well, he was. As a sophomore, Spencer was 5-6 and weighed 150 pounds. He knew a growth spurt was coming because it happened to his dad, Bruce, in college as he grew three inches and gained 50 pounds.
"He was a late bloomer physically and when he was a sophomore here, he played JV," said Bobby Shriver, Spencer's head lacrosse coach at Boys Latin. "He was starting to come into his own physically and was certainly a varsity-level player but we had so much talent that year, we felt for him to play a few minutes on the varsity wouldn't be as beneficial to him as playing JV and having the ball in his stick all the time."
"We talked to his parents and said he's a D-I player but we felt he'll develop more by playing," said Shriver. "They said 'whatever you think, we trust you.'"
What you see on the field now is an amazing player, especially for a freshman. Spencer is the quarterback of the offense who can feed with either his left or right hand.
He is fast enough to take a defender outside and beat him one on one, or big enough to back him down like a post-up player does in basketball. If needed, Spencer could play midfield and the Greyhounds would stay in rhythm.
"It was fun watching him play at Boys Latin because he had so much talent around him," said Toomey. "Back then, he could play on the left side, right side and they used him in the midfield. He has great vision, quick feet and is always getting his hands free. His best lacrosse is still ahead of him."
Spencer sees the field well because he was a basketball player at Boys Latin. As a two-year starter, he was the point guard on offense but was big enough to match up against most forwards when the Lakers were on defense.
He averaged 14 points and eight rebounds a game for Boys Latin, which played in two straight B Conference Championship games. The Lakers won the title last season.
One of the scouts who repeatedly visited Boys Latin was former Greyhounds coach Dave Metzbower, now an assistant at North Carolina. Metzbower didn't just watch Spencer play lacrosse, but basketball as well.
"The skill set to play both sports are very similar," said Spencer. "Basketball helped me tremendously as far as seeing the floor and seeing the field. I am not the quarterback here, but I'd like to think that I am a big part of the team."
Virginia couldn't stop Spencer and neither could Hopkins. The only team that seemed to slow Spencer was Towson even though he scored two goals early. No. 9 Duke has to find a way to shut down Spencer on Saturday at Loyola's Ridley Athletic Complex.
The Greyhounds (4-1) are averaging 10 goals and 40 shots per game.
"To be honest, I'm a pretty confident guy and I knew that one of the attack positions was open and that if I played well, I had a shot at it," said Spencer. "I don't think we have reached our full potential yet and that's exciting because we have won some games, but still have a ways to go."
Some people are saying the same thing about Spencer.
"He's the perfect example of why early recruiting is not always the best," said Shriver. "It looks like Loyola has given him the keys to the offense, and he's doing pretty well with it."
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