Spencer steps into big role for Price

LOS ANGELES -- There was no shortage of high-profile post players in the Southland this season. The position, in fact, was seemingly the deepest it has been in recent years.

Attempting to determine who the best of the bunch was could prove to be a difficult task given the long list of candidates. A case can certainly be made for Skylar Spencer, considering the 6-foot-9, 220-pound senior from Los Angeles Price senior is the last man standing.

While most of his highly regarded peers sit at home on Friday afternoon and wonder about what could have been, Spencer will suit up for the Knights (26-8 overall) and likely be the difference between winning and losing in the CIF state championship game against Richmond Salesian (33-2). The opening tip is at 1:30 p.m. in Sacramento at Power Balance Arena.

“I wouldn't trade Skylar for anybody out here,'' Price coach Michael Lynch said. “He's our captain, our leader on the team, we've been on his back so many times this year.''

If given the chance, many would choose Grant Jerrett from La Verne Lutheran as the premier player in the greater Los Angeles area. The senior and Arizona commit, after all, was recently named the Gatorade State Boys' Basketball Player of the Year.

North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake's Zena Edosomwan deserves consideration with regard to being mentioned in the same sentence as some of the Southland's best bigs. Also worth mentioning is Woodland Hills Taft's Anthony January. Gardena Serra's Daddy Ugbede and La Verne Damien's Chris Reyes round out the well-rounded group.

Spencer can't be overlooked if winning is a criteria used in the conversation. The Knights were among the top programs in the ESPNLosAngeles Top 20 rankings this season with Spencer leading the way. Remember, Price played one of the more competitive schedules around.

“We did not back down from anyone, we'll play anyone, anytime, anywhere,'' Spencer said. “To be the best, you have to play the best. That's the way you have to think.''

A tad unorthodox with his shooting form, the left-hander made up for his unconventional technique with consistent play. Spencer averaged more than 18 points, 10 rebounds and close to three blocks per game. Keep this in mind, he posted those numbers on a game-by-game basis while drawing plenty of attention in the low block, especially on the offensive end.

Spencer has received his share of attention both on, and off, the court.

“What stands out to me is Skylar's energy level, his knack for protecting the rim, his length, bounce and desire,'' said Joel Francisco, an ESPN Recruiting analyst. "In addition, he can sprint in transition to finish at the other end. He is very raw offensively, but he appears to love the game. Translation: His upside is impressive.''

Spencer has been on the radar for quite some time now. A three-year varsity contributor for Price, he first made a name for himself as sophomore. Once word started to spread about his skill set during his junior season, multiple colleges began to contact him with regularity.

Spencer committed to San Diego State in early November. His pledge to the Aztecs didn't prevent other coaches and scouts, alike from heavily recruiting him though.

Several Pac-12 Conference schools were interested, including Cal and USC. Gonzaga and UNLV were among the other programs who offered Spencer a scholarship.

“I felt like San Diego State was the best fit for me,'' Spencer said. “I like all the coaches, I like the plans they have for me and it's close to home, where my family lives.''

With the focus being placed on Spencer this season, things opened up for his teammates. He's smart and unselfish too, with a good understanding that everyone needed to be involved for the Knights to be successful and achieve their goals. The game plan worked out well.

Senior Khalil Johnson is a more than capable scorer on the wing. Fellow upperclassman Trey Dickerson has range on the perimeter. Junior Chance Murray is coming into his own and appears poised to be the next big thing at Price once Spencer & Co. move on.

Nevertheless, the Knights would not be in this weekend's title game without the efforts of one of the premier post players the Southland has to offer. Spencer, of course.

“I started to build up some noise, I just want to live up the hype,'' Spencer said. “I don't want people talking about me and then not show them that I can play. When I come out, I try to play hard and prove to everyone that I'm a good player. I try to prove that I belong.''