North Thurston High School boys basketball coach Tim Brown has a word he keeps coming back to that sums up his leading scorer.
Jeremy Spencer is a sneaky scorer. The 6-foot senior shooting guard doesn’t always appear to be the most imposing player on the court — but he’s often the most productive. He’s averaging a team-high 22.3 points per game for the undefeated Rams, and has scored in double digits in each of North Thurston’s wins this season.
“He’s very elusive,” North Thurston senior forward Clay Christian said. “He doesn’t look like he’s super fast or super quick, but his first step is super quick. Obviously he can shoot, and he can get his shot off fast.”
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Spencer has long arms, Brown says, which help him pull in 3.8 rebounds per game, and his ability to elevate over other players has helped him reach a team-high nine blocks.
“Jeremy’s got some bounce,” said Christian, who complements Spencer with 21.2 points per game for the Rams.
And Spencer has sneaky athleticism in his ability to create shots from anywhere on the floor. He shoots 40.7 percent from 3-point range, but the left-hander is just as comfortable driving into the paint, and extending over defenders to score.
“Going to my left, my ability to float it over them, they’re not used to it,” Spencer said. “My arms are long and I can jump, so my ability to get over them with my left hand is probably different for them to see.”
Spencer has made big strides since playing limited time his sophomore season, when he averaged 4.6 points per game. He was a standout player for North Thurston as a junior, averaging 17.5 points per game second only to Christian (24 points per game).
“Between sophomore and junior year for everyone is a big leap physically,” Christian said. “He grew a couple of inches and got a lot more athletic. With his game and skill set, it just propelled him to where he is at now.”
Spencer also spent more time in the weight room in 2017, Brown said, which has made even more of a difference from junior to senior year.
“Working in the summer, we had a lot of open gyms, so putting up the shots and playing summer ball together helped a lot,” Spencer said.
He credits a lot of his own success, and North Thurston’s success, to how long the majority of the varsity roster — which includes nine seniors — has been playing together.
“That’s how we formed this chemistry,” Spencer said. “We played all the way up to our eighth-grade year, and then came to Thurston together.
“I think it’s a big advantage, because most of these high schools get transfers, all of these new guys in, while we’ve been able to play our whole lives together. We know our abilities, our weaknesses, our strengths — and that helps us. It’s been showing this year.”
With the same crew, the Rams finished one game short of the Class 3A state playoffs last season, losing a heartbreaker to 3A South Sound Conference rival Capital, 58-53, in February with the final state-regional berth on the line.
Spencer considers himself an offensive player — given his ability to create shots for himself and teammates — but has dialed in on defense since that game. So have the Rams, who have only given up 60 points or more to an opponent twice this season.
“He’s picked up his defense,” Brown said. “The whole team has. We’ve stressed that from the Capital game last year. We’ve made a difference with it. The kids have bought in and they’re trying really hard to become better defensive players and a team as well.”
North Thurston spends significant time running drills in practice, working on its press, and solidifying its defensive schemes, Spencer said. There are still improvements to make, he said, but the work ethic is there.
“If our minds can be there the whole game, and we play together, we’ll be good,” Spencer said.
This appears to be the year North Thurston (12-0, 7-0 3A SSC) could make a long playoff run — it has to be the year, Spencer says, with so many players in their final year. The Rams resume 3A SSC play at 7 p.m. Friday, hosting Gig Harbor.
“We’re going to keep playing, play every game tough and see where we go,” Spencer said.
“He’s really brought an element of leadership that he did not bring last year,” Brown said. “You can tell in practice, he’s trying to make himself better and make the team better.”