PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Pat Spencer returns for his senior year at Loyola after setting school records for assists (59) and points (94) in 2018.

Hoop Dreams: While Spencer's Hardcourt Hopes are Real, He's All In on Lacrosse


As the Baltimore weather turns unusually cold on a Thursday night in early November, Loyola University senior superstar Pat Spencer is seated in a familiar place. He is in Reitz Arena, the basketball home of the Greyhounds, watching the men’s team tune up for a new season in an exhibition contest.

Spencer, one of the top lacrosse players — arguably the best already — ever to wear a Loyola uniform, feels very much at home in Reitz. It’s a place where he has spent many hours with a basketball, honing his conditioning, practicing his shooting and ball handling, staying in touch with a game he’s loved and excelled at for many years.

This time next year, after he probably has set every assist and point record there is to own at both Loyola and in the Patriot League, Spencer aims to be fulfilling another dream. After graduating from Loyola with a bachelor’s degree in finance, the former star point guard at Boys’ Latin School in Baltimore wants to use his final year of eligibility to play Division I basketball.

“I’m looking for a big-time [basketball] environment. Wherever that is, I feel like once I get there, I’ll be able to show what I can do,” Spencer says. “The tough part is going to be getting there.”

“I have to find a coach that’s willing to take someone for one year. There are only so many [point guard] spots that could be available,” he adds. “I have to do the research and find the right fit. I’m not shy. I’m confident in my ability and what I can bring to a team. I intend to make an impact.”


“Pat is good enough [to play basketball next year]. He also is determined not to let his basketball future be a distraction [this spring].” - Charlie Toomey


There has been speculation that Spencer could end up in a mid-major program in a conference such as the Colonial Athletic Association or the Atlantic 10. Charley Toomey, the Greyhounds’ 14th-year men’s lacrosse coach, says it wouldn’t shock him if Spencer found his way to quality minutes coming off the bench in a higher-level conference, such as the Big East.

Although lacrosse has been his primary focus ever since he established himself as a force in his freshman year at Loyola, Spencer, who led BL to the school’s first MIAA ‘B’ Conference hoops title in 25 years as a high school senior, has held his other sport close.

 

For the past four years, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Spencer has played in the Annapolis Summer Basketball League. After earning All-Metro honors at Boys’ Latin in 2015, he went on to win the summer league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2017.

“Pat is good enough [to play basketball next year],” Toomey says. “He’s got a different IQ, a different temperament than a lot of guys who have been in my locker room. He truly needs competition and absolutely hates to lose. He also is determined not to let his basketball future be a distraction [this spring].”








“Being able to compete at a high level is why I came to Loyola. The end goal that’s driving me now is winning a national championship,” says Spencer, who still rates his passions evenly between lacrosse and basketball. “They’re both great team sports, with a lot of the same principles. I’ve always loved the atmosphere in the gym.”

As a freshman, Spencer used his excellent vision, hard dodges and pinpoint, sometimes unpredictable passes to drive the Greyhounds all the way to the school’s first NCAA semifinal since winning the national title in 2012. He was the clear choice for the first of three Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year awards. He has continued to elevate his game, while leading the Greyhounds to three straight conference titles. For the past two seasons, Spencer has been selected as a first-team All-American and a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award.

The numbers keep piling up. Last year, when Spencer led Loyola to the NCAA quarterfinals, where the Greyhounds lost to eventual champion Yale 8-5, Spencer won the Turnbull Award that recognizes the nation’s top attackman. He set single-season Loyola marks in assists (59) and points (94) and set the Loyola career assist record. Spencer will take 166 career assists and 266 points — already Patriot League records — into his senior season. He should easily become Loyola’s career leader in points. (Gary Hanley set the current mark of 311 in 1981.)

Early on at Loyola, Spencer, the Warrior/US Lacrosse Preseason Player of the Year, sought and received Toomey’s blessing to pursue his interest in basketball, whether in summer league action or various pickup games. Some of those involve his brother, Cameron, a Boys’ Latin senior who is headed to Loyola’s basketball program next summer.




PHOTO COURTESY OF BALTIMORE SUN MEDIA GROUP

While he's focused on lacrosse this spring, Spencer hopes to pursue an opportunity playing Division I basketball next season. His coach, and others, believe he's extremely qualified.


On the night of that recent Greyhounds exhibition basketball game, Spencer was nursing a sore ankle he had recently rolled while playing hoops. He would miss about a week of lacrosse activities.

“Playing a lot of basketball certainly has helped Pat as a lacrosse player, even though it does scare you a little bit as a lacrosse coach,” says Marc Van Arsdale, Loyola’s third-year offensive coordinator.

“You don’t want your guys living in a bubble. They’re athletes. He could roll an ankle in a one-on-one lacrosse drill,” he adds. “With Pat, if there’s an opponent involved or you’re keeping score, whether it’s a ground ball drill or a full-field scrimmage, he’s going all out all the time. His competitive spirit is off the charts. That’s infectious with our guys.”