On Dec. 5, when UConn and North Carolina were locked in a top-10 tilt at Madison Square Garden, Golden Dike was watching from afar — keeping tabs on his old roommate Cam Spencer, who now stars for the Huskies.

Early on, the teams tussled but the game was fairly even. Then, late in the first half, Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot slammed home a dunk, then crowed and pumped his fist feet away from where Spencer was standing.

“I was like, ‘Oh no, you don’t want to talk shit to Cam,’” Dike told me recently. “That’s the worst thing you can do.”

For three years, Dike was Spencer’s teammate and roommate at Loyola, and Spencer is one of the most competitive people he’s ever met. When the team lost, he threw chairs. When he lost a drill in practice, he steamed about it until the next day.

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If you talked smack to him, he would throw it back in your face with his play. And, on that day, that’s what he did to the No. 9-ranked Tar Heels, scoring a team-best 23 points in a Huskies victory.

“He’s a different type of competitor — people say, ‘he’s a dog,’ but Cam is really a dog,” Dike said. “There’s not many dogs in college basketball right now when I see them playing.”

Now, the Davidsonville native who played at Boys’ Latin has a chance at a national title.

UConn is the prohibitive favorite in Glendale, Arizona, this weekend in the NCAA tournament, with a Saturday night semifinal against 4-seed Alabama. Spencer, who will turn 24 Saturday, has been one of the pivotal pieces in a run that has seen the Huskies win 25 of 26 games. He’s top 10 nationally in 3-point percentage (44%) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.56), the team’s second-leading scorer who also leads the squad in steals (55).

His is a family that specializes in finding unconventional paths to success. His brother, Pat Spencer, was a Tewaaraton Award winner for Loyola lacrosse and now plays for the Golden State Warriors.

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Although Cam Spencer’s college path — from Loyola to Rutgers and now UConn — had a few extra steps, it’s a path that may become more typical for midmajor players who want to push upward in a transfer-friendly NCAA system. Though coaches and administrators have worried about the long-term viability of the transfer system, Spencer has earned his way.

On one hand, his parents, Donna and Bruce Spencer, aren’t surprised their son has found a way to a team that matches his sky-high ambitions. On the other, it has happened so fast that moments like last weekend — when Cam was cutting down the nets in Boston after punching a ticket to the Final Four — are difficult to grasp.

The family used to live in Rhode Island and threw parties for their sons and their friends when they were young, filling out brackets for fun. The winners got gift cards to Rita’s Italian Ice. Now, Cam’s team could be the one in the center of it all, hoping to capture back-to-back titles for UConn.

“I said, I’m gonna pinch myself. It’s just surreal,” Bruce Spencer said. “Where were we even six months ago?”


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The story of Cam Spencer’s college hoops career, however, starts in 2019, when he arrived at Loyola as a somewhat lightly recruited local out of Boys’ Latin off an injury. A fellow freshman hailing from Spain, Dike had heard a scouting report on Spencer: white guy, unathletic, can shoot a little bit. But, the moment that he first played with him, he knew Spencer was different.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 15: Cam Spencer #12 of the Connecticut Huskies reaches for the ball as Daniss Jenkins #5 and RJ Luis Jr. #12 of the St. John's Red Storm defend in the second half during the Semifinal round of the Big East Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 15, 2024 in New York City. The Huskies won 95-90. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Cam Spencer of Connecticut (center) brings legendary competitiveness to the floor. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

“His IQ was impressive, his assist-to-turnover ratio was always one of the best, but he really just wanted to win everything,” Dike said. “It didn’t matter: 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3 or 5 vs. 5. If he lost, he was pissed.”

Spencer was part of what would come to be a heralded class for Loyola. Santi Aldama, the 6-foot-11 forward from Spain, joined the same year. The freshmen pushed the culture of the program, their competitiveness sometimes spilling out in tempestuous ways. Aldama said Spencer used to snap at anyone who used the phrase “if we win” instead of “when we win.”

“He would stop the conversation every time when someone said that,” said Aldama, who now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. “You can see it on the court how it comes out, too.”

In preparation for the biggest weekend of his basketball career, Spencer was not available to speak to The Banner for this story. But the people who know him well from Loyola call him funny, if a bit “socially awkward,” Dike said. Aldama remembered him as a meticulous, exacting roommate who loved to whip opponents in “Call of Duty.” One of Cam’s favorite post-workout spots is Outback Steakhouse, where he likes to get deals on filets and cheese fries.

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“Cam’s cheap,” Dike quipped. “If he makes the NBA, he’ll probably still eat at Outback.”

Dike got especially close to Cam. Unable to go to his native Spain for Easter, Dike would spend spring break with the Spencers instead. Inevitably, the brothers (a third brother, Will, plays basketball at Hood College) would offer to play a quick pickup hoops game or a round of golf. If they lost the first game, the rematches would spill over for hours until Cam or Pat had won decisively.

Eventually, Dike would try to skip the games, knowing accepting would be a bigger time commitment than he was prepared for.

“They’re crazy,” Dike said. “Pat and Cam, man — they love golf, basketball and not that many more things.”


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Like his brother, Cam Spencer loves winning most of all. After being hamstrung by injuries early in his college career, he had a breakout junior season when he led the Greyhounds in scoring and steals. But Aldama had left for the NBA and the Greyhounds struggled to break through, finishing 14-16 and sixth in the Patriot League.

Cam had dreams of winning championships but didn’t seem to be coming close to that goal. According to Donna Spencer, Pat talked his brother into following his dream of playing higher-level basketball and entering the transfer portal, which had loosened restrictions in 2021.

When Cam told his teammates at Loyola, Dike said he understood.

“I didn’t expect him to leave but, man, he had the opportunity — he’s good,” Dike said. “When he asked me what I thought, I said, ‘Man, leave. You gotta pursue your own dreams. You’re better than this.’ He wanted to be a pro player, so he wanted to be closer to a pro level.”

Joining Rutgers, Spencer was closer to a pro level. Defense was one of his glaring weaknesses, so he worked on his hip flexibility and lateral quickness. The shooting skills he had honed at Loyola and his all-around game translated to Big Ten play. But Rutgers couldn’t make the NCAA tournament — Spencer later said he thought the Scarlet Knights “got screwed” when it came to shaping the bracket.

But a season in New Brunswick, New Jersey, had proven to high-level schools that Spencer had game that could play in the Big Dance. When he entered the transfer portal again as a graduate student, more than 30 schools reached out. Although he hadn’t gotten much high-level interest as a prep player, now the Spencer family spent a lot of time whittling down which programs would be a good fit.

“It was like the floodgates had opened,” Bruce Spencer said. “But Cam had really worked hard and earned that respect.”

He connected quickly with UConn coach Dan Hurley, who needed a shooter to replace star guard Jordan Hawkins. Hawkins had been huge in the national title run. Hurley knew a little bit about trying to compete in the shadow of an older brother’s athletic career. Cam committed in June and quickly fit in snugly.

“Really from day one, Coach Hurley and Cam are two peas in a pod in regard to his intensity level,” Bruce Spencer said. “Cam has been a good fit.”

He’s primarily a shooter for the Huskies, but Spencer has never liked to fit in one box. Last weekend, as UConn was battling Illinois, his shot wasn’t falling (1-for-4). So Spencer, at 6-foot-4, grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds, playing a key piece in a 30-0 run that put away the Illini early in the second half.

“I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the locker room at halftime,” Donna Spencer said. “They do always come out that second half like gangbusters. I much prefer that type of game.”


Certainly, the Greyhounds could have used a player like Cam in the last two seasons, but his former teammates Dike and Aldama point out how much he has made of his opportunities. The NCAA transfer portal was made for players who were underappreciated as high school recruits but have proved how effective they can be.

Aldama said his Grizzlies teammate Desmond Bane is the only shooter he’s been around who is better than Cam but, beyond that, Spencer has shown he can make winning plays all over the court. While the frenetic pace of transfers has made many people decry the portal as the Wild West, Spencer’s upward mobility in the transfer portal is proof to Aldama that there’s at least some benefit.

“UConn is the perfect team for Cam,” Aldama said. “It’s great that he’s been able to play for a team that has the same goals as he does. Maybe not a lot of people are a fan of the Patriot League, but that competition can really help make great players.”

The Greyhounds have been texting Cam, wishing him well. His responses, by and large, have been short. “Two more,” he has texted his friends. “Two more.”

For a journey that’s spanned three schools in as many years, nothing can shake him now that the championship he’s been dreaming of is so close at hand.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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