Saturday, February 23, 2008

SPORTS >>Just one more goal to reach

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke’s win over Highland on Wednesday in the first round of the 4A East Regional tournament put the Jackrabbits into the state tournament for the second straight season.

It will also be the second trip to state for senior Bradley Spencer, who currently serves as Lonoke’s ultimate all-purpose player.
Spencer and the ’Rabbits are currently riding a huge wave of momentum entering the final rounds of the East Regional tournament. They swept the last half of the conference season to win their second-consecutive 2-4A Conference title, and backed it up with a virtual cruise through the district tournament two weeks ago.

Clean cut, well spoken, and not hesitant to share his aspirations, Spencer, an All-Conference and All-State selection last year as a junior, also took home the Tip-off Club’s Arvest Player of the Week on Monday for his late-season efforts as the ’Rabbits point guard and leading defender.

Spencer is the son of Danita Spencer, and attends Gateway Fellowship International Church in Lonoke. He has one older brother, Brentley, and plays on the Jackrabbits team with younger cousin Trenton.

He lists fishing and hanging out with friends as a couple of his favorite pastimes, but minces few words when it comes to his greatest enjoyment in life, or his biggest ambition.

“I love the game of basketball,” Spencer said. “I want to accomplish the things that other people in my family didn’t get to. Some of them had some big challenges in life, and never made it to college. I want to be one of the first people in my family to go to college and decide my own future.”

That future will most likely include four years in Searcy, as a member of the Harding Bison. Other offers currently circulate, but Spencer became enamored on a recent trip to legendary Rhodes Field House for a Bison home game.

He says his future could include anything from technology to sports reporting, but is pretty sure it will be pursued wearing black and gold.
“It was just like watching a game on TV,” Spencer said of Harding’s gym. “The crowd was just going
wild. I know it’s a Division II school, but that’s one of the greatest places I’ve ever seen a basketball game.”

Team chemistry is something any coach will tell you is vital to having a strong squad. Spencer, along with teammates Tyrone Dob-bins, Clarence Harris, Michael Howard and Juice Lambert have plenty of it. Watching the Jackrabbits dismantle an opponent can sometimes make one wonder how a team can be on the same page so closely, but Spencer says it is just one aspect of a number of very tight friendships.

“We call each other up all the time and keep up with each other,” Spencer said. “We make sure we’re all staying out of trouble, and sometimes we’ll just load up in someone’s car and go out. We’ll go check out other people’s games, or sometimes we’ll just ride around in Little Rock.”

Spencer’s grades back up his academic prowess. He currently holds a 3.2 GPA, and also has an ACT score of 18. He hopes to improve his ACT before his freshman year of college, saying his current score is “completely unacceptable.”

Lonoke head coach Wes Swift has no shortage of praise for the 6-2 senior. He compares Spencer’s attention to detail to that of former Duke star Shane Battier, and says he is happy to make even the smallest of contributions.

“I’ve never seen anybody get as excited over an assist than Bradley,” Swift said. “If he’s on the bench, and a big play happens, he’ll jump up and start waving a towel. He defends, he’s a leader all the time, and I think he’s one of the main reasons we are going to the state tournament.”

Spencer echoed Swift’s admiration.

“He’s a good guy, and a great coach,” Spencer said. “He keeps us out of trouble and works us hard, but we know it’s for a reason. He sees potential in all of us, and pushes each one of us to achieve everything we can.

“He will definitely make you get after it, though,” Spencer added with a laugh.
Spencer looks forward to this week’s state tournament, and likes his team’s chances.

At a pow-wow at the start of the season, the team put together a blueprint for success, and Spencer says the Jackrabbits are right on target, save for one final goal.

“It would mean a lot for us to win it all,” Spencer said. “That’s every player’s dream, to win the state tournament. We set goals at the first of the season, and so far, we have accomplished all of them. Now, there’s one more to be accomplished.

“I love this team to death, and I think a state title would bring us even closer together,” the Jackrabbits senior guard said.
Swift says that aside from being a top scorer for the Jackrabbits for the past three seasons, he is also strong on the other side of the court.

“He’s the best defender I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching,” Swift said. “Playing good defense is all about heart, and nobody has a bigger heart than Bradley.