After starting his career off with a bang where he scored in double figures in four of the Tigers’ first six games, Spencer’s production and playing time tapered off dramatically during his freshman campaign.
When Butch Pierre took over as the interim head coach with nine games left in the season, Spencer did not see as much time on the floor as he did when Brady was in charge.
Spencer averaged a little more than 10 minutes a game under Pierre after averaging 18 under Brady. His scoring also dropped from 4.4 to 1.1 points per game and still to this day Spencer doesn’t have an explanation as to what happened.
“Last year was a crazy year,” Spencer said. “I started off real good but I don’t know if it was the coaching change or what. I still was playing hard in practice but I guess in coach’s eye he didn’t need me out there at a certain point in time.
“I never got a bad attitude or anything. I just stayed and supported my team. I just wasn’t getting in as much.”
That was a tough adjustment for Spencer to make after the stellar career he had at nearby Glen Oaks High School.
He won two state championships and was a Class 4A All-State selection as a senior when he averaged 26 points, seven assists and four rebounds per game.
Several high-profile schools showed interest in Spencer such as LSU, U-Conn, Miami and Virginia, but the only ones that extended a scholarship offer were the Tigers, Ole Miss, Old Dominion and some mid-majors.
In the end, Spencer (6-1, 185) chose to stay close to home and sign with the Tigers and it was a decision that he is glad he made.
“I wanted to stay close to home and after I looked at some other schools I knew that LSU was where I wanted to be,” Spencer said back at media day.
“I’m real glad that coach J [Trent Johnson] is here because it’s a new beginning for all of us and for LSU basketball,” added Spencer.
That new beginning was apparent from the onset as Johnson saw something in Spencer.
In an effort to put his best five on the floor, Johnson needed someone to play the point since Garrett Temple was moving to the three and Spencer was one of the guys battling for the starting spot along with true freshman Chris Bass.
Spencer won the job and responded with 21 points in the Tigers’ season opener. That kind of production is not what many expected to see from the sophomore point guard.
“It was a surprise, but then again, it really wasn’t a surprise because Garrett is really comfortable at the three,” Spencer recalled upon learning of his new role. “I was able to come in and contribute. I was comfortable with doing it. I expected myself to do things like that, and I just came out and played.”
LSU needed someone to step up and score some points against Jackson State with Marcus Thornton and Tasmin Mitchell both in foul trouble. Temple was still adjusting to his new spot on the floor so Spencer did what Johnson expected one of his guys to do.
“That’s what Coach J preaches in practice, everybody has a role. No one is bigger than the team,” said Spencer. “Marcus is a huge scorer and we look for him and Tas to score, but sometimes they’re going to be off and like coach Johnson says we all have to compete and we all have to step it up.
“They expect me to be a point guard and a playmaker, but if it happens where I score 21 every night or if I score 10 or 5 every night, it’s just whatever I can do to get the ‘W’. It’s about whatever it takes to win and what’s best for the team,” added Spencer.
The one department that Spencer will need to improve on is the turnover-to-assist ratio which read three turnovers and no assists in the opener.
Johnson may not have been pleased when he read the stat sheet shortly after the victory, but there is more to running an offense and it doesn’t show up in the boxscore.
“That wasn’t a problem. We got good shots,” Johnson said. “We probably took six bad shots, but we got the ball where we needed to get it. Guys just didn’t make plays. It wasn’t like they weren’t distributing the ball and playing together, but again, what you have to understand is that it is so early. There’s a new system.”
Johnson places a strong emphasis on his point guard play and says that it all starts with that position on both ends of the floor.
He saw something in Spencer from the summer workouts and has stayed on top of him to make sure he gets it on and off the court.
“It makes me feel real good,” Spencer said. “Last year coach wasn’t on me as hard. They weren’t drilling me but coach J has just stayed on me. When I go home after a game and I look back, I see why coach Johnson gets on me all the time.
“I’m trying to stay on top of my books right now,” Spencer continued. “I made a huge improvement and I give all the thanks to coach G and coach Johnson. All of them have given me the help and support that I need.”
Coach G would be assistant coach Donnie Guerinoni, who works with the guards at practice. Guerinoni’s influence reaches far from the court and Spencer looks at him as a mentor on and off the hardwood.
“The best advice he’s given me is there are going to be some good nights and there’s going to be some bad nights. You just have to play through them,” Spencer said.
Spencer has taken the advice that he receives from Johnson and all of the coaches to heart and it has earned the respect of his teammates.
“He’s stepped up. You see it everyday when he comes in to work hard in practice and he listens to everything coach J has to say,” said LSU center Chris Johnson “He’s been a sponge and has taken everything in. It’s hard to take everything in, but you take certain things and put it towards your game and he does a great job at that.”
Any leader must have the respect and admiration of his peers and that is especially critical when you’re a floor general on the basketball court like Bo Spencer.