Photo Courtesy of Rashaan Spencer
By Steve Sears
For former Mount Olive High School and Centenary University basketball star, Rashaan Spencer, the memories are fond of a wonderful basketball career.
“It’s been surreal to believe that I could accomplish those things,” he says.
“Those things” are Spencer scoring over 1,000 points at both schools, and while a Mount Olive Marauder, his club was a two-time Morris County Tournament champion. During that run, he was a First Team All-Conference and All-County selection his junior and senior seasons, in addition to being named the team’s Most Valuable Player on offense. During his three years with the Kevin Moore-coached Marauders, the club had a total win-loss record of 66 – 16.
Spencer, 26, recalls Moore’s words to the team before his sophomore season. “Coach pitched to us that, if we’d buy in, there was a lot of potential. I believe that’s the year we actually won the conference.” After that season, Spencer and his teammates, certainly invested in Moore’s plan, felt they had enough talent to compete well enough against anyone in Morris County, and prepped for the next season by working out over the summer and fall. “I think it all helped that we were pretty close,” Spencer says. “It felt like family. All of us now are dispersed around the area, but I think that is always something we’ll be able to talk about.” Spencer also credits the support he and his team had when playing in their home gym. “No matter what day the game was, we always had a good turnout, and it was always loud and packed. And that was one thing we could guarantee, that we were going to have a home court advantage.”
The Marauders advanced to the county title game all three seasons. Chatham High School was the opponent when Mount Olive won the MCT title in Spencer’s junior season, 67 – 54, a year after the same school had knocked off the Marauders on a last second bucket in the title game when Spencer was a sophomore.
Mount Olive, however, would live a like drama. Morristown was the foe for Spencer’s senior campaign, and the game was decided at the buzzer. “I believe we hit a shot,” Spencer recalls, “and then they came down and had two chances at a three (point shot) and banked in the second one.” The game now tied and with the ball in Spencer’s hands on the inbounds pass, Moore encouraged his team up the floor. “And that’s what I did,” Spencer says, “and I happened to miss the first layup, and I guess my instinct said to jump and try and get the rebound.” Spencer leaped for the put back and converted, he knocking over 6’ 7” center (and current Marauder coach) Zach Heeman in the process. Spencer and Mount Olive were repeat MCT winners, 75 – 73. “There was no way I was holding any emotion. It definitely was a very big highlight in my whole basketball career.”
Spencer scored his 1,000th point in his senior campaign against West Morris Central.
Neighboring Centenary University recruited Spencer early and heavily, and his choice came down to them and Rutgers-Newark. He chose to stay close to home. “It was nice to have family at every game, and friends at every game, whenever they could make it,” he says. According to Spencer, it was about 10 games into the season before he started to actually play a good number of minutes. “I think it was because the coach wanted me to prove that I could actually play instead of just coming in there because I had a background.”
Prove it he did. The 5’ 9” guard appeared in 28 games and was named Colonial States Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year. He then played 27 games his sophomore year, averaging 16.9 points per game, and scored a-then school record 42 points against Neumann, and notched point number 1,000 during his junior season in a victory over John Jay on December 12, 2016.
His final Centenary season was cut short due to an injury. “Going into my senior year,” Spencer explains, “I felt I was in the best shape that I was ever in, but I think I pushed myself too hard. In the offseason, I pulled my hamstring, and it was lingering throughout the whole season. It got to the point where I felt like my hamstring was holding me back and was making me more frustrated, and that was the reason why I didn’t finish out my senior year.”
It has all been rewarding for Rashaan Spencer. “It’s unbelievable because, when I was going out of middle school, there wasn’t even an idea of actually going to college and playing basketball. It was just something that I wanted to do to try and stay active.” He also gives further credit where it is due. “I don’t think without the coaches (Moore at Mount Olive, and Tim Fusina and Damian Pitts at Centenary) and playing basketball I would be who I am today. It all molded me into a very well, thought out person.”