After becoming one of the most decorated college lacrosse players in history at Loyola, Pat Spencer is returning to Maryland — but as a guard for the Northwestern men’s basketball team.
Spencer, a graduate student, is one of the top performers for the Wildcats, who are 6-18 overall and 1-13 in the Big Ten. Spencer averages 10.7 points, 3.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds for the Wildcats and will return home with family and friends in attendance when Northwestern faces No. 7 Maryland Feb. 18.
“It should be a good crowd. … Should have the whole family there,” Spencer said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 17. “I’m fortunate that my four years at Loyola, my whole family is in Maryland. They would have an unbelievable support system there for every game. You get, I think, three games on the East Coast here for the Big Ten [basketball season], so this is definitely one that that we’ve all had marked on the calendar.”
In 2019, Spencer became Loyola’s first men’s recipient of the Tewaaraton Award, which is given to the nation’s most outstanding lacrosse player, and won the USILA’s Lt. Raymond J. Enners Most Outstanding Player award as well.
Spencer finished his career as the all-time leader in assists (231) and second in points (380) in Division I. He was also the first player to earn Offensive Player of the Year honors all four seasons in Patriot League history. Still, he had to earn respect from his teammates and coaches in Evanston, Ill., regardless of what he did on the lacrosse field.
“I just think as time has gone on I’ve gotten a little bit more respect,” Spencer said. “And even more so from our coaches and our players, I think that the one thing that was tough at first was developing that trust and developing chemistry.”
Spencer, who starred at Boys’ Latin in both basketball and lacrosse, described the two sports as similar.
“I think basketball helped me with lacrosse and vice versa,” Spencer said. “Growing up, I think each one kind of provided different things for me to see how I could use them and utilize them on the court or the lacrosse field.”
To Spencer, the only thing that separates basketball and lacrosse is the type of physical contact players experience on the lacrosse field. Though he had to get his “basketball legs” back, he’s been preparing since the summer.
“I think it’s getting my basketball legs back a little bit [and] just getting used to getting back into basketball shape was the initial transition,” Spencer said. “I think people thought that I hadn’t played in quite some time. And I guess I hadn’t played officially organized ball in four years. But the competition that I’ve been playing against was really good in the summer.”
Spencer believes his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame causes matchup problems for opposing teams on the hardwood, similar to his time at Loyola, when he was five pounds heavier as a lacrosse player.
“I do play a little bit of a power game in basketball, and I started to develop that as time went on with my lacrosse team,” Spencer said. “Early on in my career, I was more of a quicker slip dodge kind of guy. I think I had a size advantage on a lot of guys in lacrosse. I think the same at this level at the guard position. I have a size advantage on a lot of guys, [and] I just try to take what the defense gives me, [which] at times means getting to the block and using that size a bit.”
Though the Wildcats currently sit at the bottom of the Big Ten standings, Spencer believes the team has the potential to win games and turn the things around.
“It’s been a little bit of a bumpy road, but we’re still in a position where we want to find a way to turn the end of the season around and really produce some wins,” Spencer said. “We feel like we’ve been really close, had a little bit of slippage in the last couple of games. … We haven’t been able to close the game, which is frustrating, but we feel like we have the potential to turn it around down the line.”
For more from Spencer, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Loyola Athletics