Approximately 3 percent of high school men's lacrosse players
play at the NCAA Division I level
. High school men's basketball athletes are even less likely to reach top college competition at just 1 percent.
But to play both at a D-I program? That's exactly what 2019 Tewaaraton Award winner Pat Spencer is doing next basketball season. He'll play for Northwestern instead of Loyola, where he became one of the most successful college lacrosse players of his generation.
"For the most part, I've played two sports for pretty much my whole life until college, so it hasn't been too difficult of a process that way," Spencer said on
Glenn Clark Radio
June 24. "I've never really gone back and thought about my individual accomplishments."
After being a Tewaaraton Award finalist as a sophomore and junior, Spencer had by far his best numbers at Loyola when he won the award this season, scoring 20 more points than he did in 2018.
Even with so much individual success, Spencer had his sights set on playing college basketball in some way after his final season of Loyola lacrosse. He realized how this decision could affect aspects of the team's play and chemistry, so he made an effort to put this dream aside until after the season.
"I knew in my mind that I was going to be playing ball this coming year, so it was never a doubt as to whether or not I was going to play, it was just more so the fact that I wanted to make sure I wasn't taking anything away from our team," Spencer said. "It wasn't difficult because I actually didn't start really making phone calls and figuring out the whole process until the season was over anyway."
"At the time I was really more so focused on what we had at Loyola," he added.
Spencer was a
two-year varsity high school basketball player
at Boys' Latin (Md.)., averaging 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.3 steals per game his senior year, but little footage can be found of him playing since high school aside from a video of him dunking between the legs via a friend's selfie.
It's said that when he has played in summer pickup games, however, he's been quite good, and he has the size and athletic ability to be able to play guard at the college level. There was a video compilation of some of his dunks from his senior year of high school on Twitter.
"I can post up, but that's not my main thing. I think the best part of my game in basketball is very similar to lacrosse as far as making guys around me better, being able to be a facilitator and understanding the spacing on the floor and putting guys in the right spots to be successful," Spencer said. "I play a lot in the summer ... but now that [lacrosse] is over I'll be full-blown into it."
Spencer's younger brother, Cameron, is set to join the Greyhounds men's basketball team this upcoming season as a freshman. The school offered Spencer the opportunity to play on the team with his brother, but he instead turned to the Big Ten as a chance to try a different opportunity in a more competitive conference.
The Wildcats went 13-19 last season and didn't really have a go-to guard, so there should be a good amount of minutes available for Spencer to earn.
"I'm lucky enough to be on the Big Ten stage, and [my family will] be able to catch every game through the network or whatever platform we're playing on," Spencer said. "For me, I was reaching for the highest level at first, and if everything didn't work out I was willing to have a year with [Cameron], which would have been an unbelievable fallback."
Spencer has not ruled out the possibility of playing professional lacrosse in the future, but for now he's focusing on making the most of his one chance to play college basketball. He says being in basketball shape is different than lacrosse, so he's ready to fully commit to getting his body ready for this new experience.
"I'm kind of undecided on what my future holds. I just know I want to give everything I have to this one year and after this year I think I'll have some decisions to make hopefully and we'll figure all that out," Spencer said. "I think having options is never a problem."
For more from Spencer, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Loyola Athletic Communications