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Northwestern men’s basketball player previews: G Pat Spencer

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The former lacrosse star is certainly a wild card for the ‘Cats this season.

NCAA LACROSSE: MAY 19 NCAA Lacrosse Championships Quarterfinals - Loyola v Penn State Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who he is:

Graduate student guard; 6-foot-3; Davidsonville, MD; former lacrosse player for Loyola University (Maryland); Tewaaraton Award Winner; all-time NCAA leader in assists; one of (if not the) best college lacrosse players of all time

Stats (HS Senior Year):

14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.1 assist and 2.3 steals

Strengths:

How will Pat Spencer’s athleticism translate to Division 1 basketball? Standing at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Spencer has a decent frame for a guard, and plenty of quickness and strength. He also is the NCAA’s all-time lacrosse assists leader, a testament to his vision on the field, which could correspond to a unique strength on the court.

Spencer’s shooting and game speed have also been cited as strengths in spring practices. As Chris Collins said after officially signing him as a grad transfer, “He made it clear this isn’t a gimmick, this is real. He’s very driven to see what he can do in hoops. It’s always been in his heart. I wanted him in my program.” Spencer brings a fresh hustle and passion to the program with a plethora of underclassmen potentially ready to follow his lead.

Weaknesses:

The fact that Spencer has not played competitive basketball since his senior year of high school raises some concerns on his ability to impact games, especially considering that he will be playing against some of the best teams in the country throughout the Big Ten schedule.

Lacrosse, of course, requires plenty of athleticism, coordination, and physicality, but Spencer has needed all spring and summer to switch gears and get into “basketball shape.” If Spencer’s skillset does not adapt to the court, especially considering his height and weight (he has said that he’s dropping some pounds to improve his lateral quickness), Chris Collins might be bereft of an expected offensive weapon.

Expectations:

Spencer is perhaps the biggest unknown on this Northwestern squad; in fact, Chris Collins described adding him to the team as a “leap of faith.” Collins could slot him in at the point guard role, where his mobility and natural tendency to pass first could jumpstart an offense in need of scorers.

It seems more likely, given the scrimmage and the coaches’ preseason comments, that he will actually play more of an off-guard role, providing hustle and solid on-ball defense on one side of the court while adding court vision, unselfishness, and maybe even a bit of shooting on the other. However, the unknowns in how Spencer will adjust to D-1, and especially Power Five, basketball will linger throughout the season.