For a second straight Big Ten road game, Cam Spencer made the game winning three-pointer in the closing seconds. This time on Wednesday night after Rutgers took the lead for good against Northwestern, Spencer was seen yelling on the court “It got quiet!” There is not better closing statement in a conference road game than silencing what was a raucous crowd in the final moments at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
When asked about the game winning shot after the game, Spencer praised his teammates.
“All credit to Paul. They helped a bit too much on Cliff, he was able to find me, and I just shot it with confidence.”
Ever since Big Ten play resumed last week, Spencer has emerged as the best offensive player that Rutgers has or has had in a long time. His shot is a thing of beauty. He has a high basketball IQ, knows how to create space for himself and his teammates, and is a good passer.
In the four games Rutgers has played in 2023, winning three of them, Spencer has been a catalyst for success. He averaged 15.8 points, 3.3 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.0 steals during this recent stretch in which Rutgers won three of four games. Spencer shot 47.6% from the floor (20-42) and a blistering 14 of 23 from three-point range for 60.9%. He’s also been a perfect 9 of 9 from the foul line.
Spencer’s ability to take the shot with the game on the line is a role Rutgers desperately needed to fill. He’s aced both tests so far. The first coming last week in Mackey Arena against No. 1 Purdue. The transition for last season’s leading scorer in the Patriot League to the Big Ten had a few bumps early on. Most notably, he shot 1 of 10 from the floor in the road loss at Miami. However, with Paul Mulcahy and Caleb McConnell out with injuries, it wasn’t easy for him to have to shoulder a bigger load right away. It took a little bit of time for all of them to learn how to best play together.
“I give a lot of credit to the coaches and my teammates who helped me,” Spencer explained. “They really made my transition easy and they are great to play with on the floor. Really just the trust that Coach had in me was all that I needed”.
From the summer when Rutgers added Spencer, Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell knew what type of player he was adding to the program.
“[Cam Spencer] has been great since day one, there’s never a doubt with him. The minute he stepped foot on campus he was ready to go, so he’s been great,” stated Pikiell. “He leads the league in steals, three to one assist to turnover ratio, and a really good defender, tough as nails, does a lot of great things for us.”
He has impressed two former Rutgers stars. Geo Baker tweeted after the Northwestern game that “Cam Spencer is the most focused and most prepared basketball player I’ve ever met. There’s a reason he has the consistency he does. Never met anyone like him.” And Ron Harper Jr. met with Cam after his game winner against No. 1 Purdue last week. He called him a “special player.”
After Wednesday’s win over Northwestern, Spencer is now leading Rutgers in scoring this season. Through 17 games, Spencer is averaging 13.5 points, 3.6 assists, 2.6 rebounds and a team high 2.5 steals per game. His offensive rating of 129.8 is No. 30 nationally.
Spencer has ascended as the most impactful transfer in the Big Ten. He’s the only player that Pikiell added out of the portal over the offseason.
Leading teammate and reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Caleb McConnell in steals has also been an eye opener. Spencer’s anticipation and ability to create chaos on the defensive end has been impressive.
“Defensively, we did well,” Spencer said after the win over Northwestern. “We made some adjustments, guarded well in the second half. Credit to my teammates for what they did all night long.”
He is a team first, soft spoken player who is constantly working on his improving his game. His passion for winning and his teammates are shining through as the victories mount. However, his defense and unselfish attitude aren’t even at at the top of the list of what he brings to Rutgers.
Cam Spencer is currently on pace to break single-season program records in both three-point shooting percentage and free throw shooting percentage. He’s currently shooting 48.2% from three (40-83) and tracking above Tom Savage’s record mark of 47.4% from the 1988-1989 season. Spencer is also shooting 97.2% from the foul line in making 35 of 36 attempts. Steve Kaplan’s record from 1969-1970 is 92.7% but Spencer will need to take at least 75 free throws.
Whether Spencer achieves either or both of those marks remains to be seen. However, his contributions and impact so far has been immense. The biggest takeaway is that Rutgers is a completely different team with Spencer as the primary scorer. Their ceiling is higher, it makes them harder to defend, and his mentality has made this team tougher. And with the game on the line, Rutgers now has their closer for the long term as he has one more of eligibility after this season.
Nicknames for Spencer have sprouted on social media and beyond. Harper Jr. tweeted “Killa Cam“, the Court Club coined “The Camdy Man“, and WRSU’s Eddie Kalegi called him “Cannonball Cam” during his radio call are among a few of the best. My favorite part of Spencer is when his passion and intensity rise to the surface after he comes through in the clutch.
As Spencer continues to reach cult hero status at Rutgers, he’ll continue to go about his business quietly and efficiently, preparing for the next game on the schedule. The only thing Spencer cares about is winning. Breaking hearts of fan bases across the Big Ten with game winning daggers is just collateral damage.
Here is my interview with Cam Spencer from the preseason. Topics include his reasons for coming to Rutgers and his own expectations for himself.
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