Hailing from Roeland Park, Kan., senior Spencer Jones is entering his fourth year as a forward on the Stanford men’s basketball team. Last season, Jones was the team’s leading scorer, with 12 points per game. He was awarded with an All-Pac-12 honorable mention, as well as a Pac-12 All-Defense honorable mention, becoming the fourth player in Stanford history to earn both all-conference and all-defense honors. Ahead of the upcoming season, Jones was named on the Pac-12 preseason first team.
The Daily’s Lauren Koong spoke with Jones about his time at Stanford, his basketball journey and his goals for the upcoming season as he prepares for graduation.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Why did you start playing basketball?
Spencer Jones (SJ): I’m in an athletic family. Dad played track, mother played basketball a little bit but not in college and then I have an older brother who was hooping. Naturally, you just start playing against him. Then, as you get better, play against neighbors and then, you know, you realize you’re pretty good, so you just keep on playing.
TSD: So, during your recruiting process, what made you decide to go to Stanford?
SJ: Stanford was always a dream school for me. My recruiting process was weird because it was very late. I didn’t commit here until May of my senior year. It’s actually funny — my graduation pamphlet still said ‘undeclared.’ I had decided by then, but it was like a couple days before they made the little pamphlets and everything so yeah, it said undecided so that was fun. I think they told me I was probably the last person admitted because they needed to get a special request to get me in so late but yeah, somehow managed to get in.
TSD: Why was it so late?
SJ: Part of it was just because I flew under the radar for a long time. Usually, for most recruits, your junior year of AAU season is your last season, so after that, you know what offers you have. By then, I had things that I didn’t really consider too highly, so I just applied to schools as a regular student and got my baseline of, you know, if I don’t get any schools better than what I can get into just academically, then I’m not going. So then, after junior year, I was actually thinking about taking a post-grad year, which is basically going to a prep school for a year and just continuing playing basketball to try to get more offers. Because of that, I did one last AAU tournament my senior year. All it took was that tournament; Stanford was there. After that, I got a lot of offers late into senior year and just took off from there.
TSD: Do you remember your first Stanford practice? What was that like?
SJ: I remember it was in the summer. It’s always a huge adjustment for freshmen coming in. The pace is ridiculous, the conditioning is ridiculous. One of the biggest changes is how quick you get from this drill to the next drill. None of that’s like high school where you can walk, take your time, kind of slip in a water break here and there. I definitely struggled. I was thinking I was out of shape as hell. I remember in my first week, Oscar da Silva gave me an elbow to the chest and, you know, then, I didn’t have quite the muscle I have now. I didn’t take that impact too well and actually, I got a bruise like right on my sternum and had to wear a little padding for the whole week so if it got hit again, it wouldn’t be that bad. It was a rough week but it was a great experience.
TSD: Wow, that sounds painful. On a less painful note, what has been your favorite part of Stanford?
SJ: I do appreciate the school for its wacky traditions, although there has been a little talk these last couple years of them fading away a bit. But all the weird stuff, especially my freshman year Full Moon on the Quad, all that. It definitely makes you feel like it’s a little bit different, you’re getting a different experience than you would somewhere else.
TSD: So obviously, Stanford is a pretty academically rigorous school. What is it like balancing academics and basketball?
SJ: It’s definitely a lot to learn. I definitely wasn’t the type of person to write everything on my calendar, so I had some learning curves early on. The great thing is you have a bunch of resources, a bunch of other athletes who take hard classes, so once you get here, especially in the summer when you’re here with all the athletes, when you get to acclimate before everybody else, you always have somebody in your classes. Stanford has a huge athlete community; it really helps.
TSD: That’s awesome. So switching gears a little bit – how’s the team looking and how are you feeling about the upcoming season?
SJ: I’m feeling great. It’s kind of like the first older team I’ve had since I’ve been here. It’s the first time we won’t be starting a freshman in my four years. The difference with this team is shooting 100%. We have shooters all over the floor, which is nice for me, so they don’t focus so much on me, face guard me all the time. It’s that and it’s the unselfishness, the chemistry – you’ll see us moving the ball way more than we have in past years.
TSD: How does it feel to be entering your last year playing basketball for Stanford?
SJ: It’s crazy. It still feels like I just woke up. I can still reminisce on some freshman, sophomore – type years but I’m definitely much more calm, comfortable. Obviously, you get the game nerves and everything but I’m just calm as I’ve ever been. I’m just going to give the guys everything I’ve learned in the last four years and you know, see what it is.
TSD: Do you have any specific goals you hope to accomplish in your last year?
SJ: For one, absolutely make the NCAA tournament. For the team, definitely play to our potential, which would be at least a top four finish in the Pac-12 tournament. Outside of that, I don’t really have too many personal goals. Because if we’re achieving those, based on our game plan and everything we need to do for that, I’ll achieve my personal goals through that. Hopefully, you know, after ending last season, I generated a little bit of draft buzz, so just keep playing well and see what happens.
TSD: What are your plans for the future?
SJ: If I have a great year, hopefully, leave for the draft and play professionally. If not, you know, I still have that COVID year, so I could use that fifth year, possibly use it here and go into a co-term degree. With four years, I was thinking of probably just doing some consulting, maybe tech consulting. If I take the fifth year, I might push into healthcare and do something in healthcare management. So I got a lot of options.
TSD: So, my final question for you: Who is your role model?
SJ: My grandfather passed away two years ago. He was my role model just because he was like the main patriarch of the family. I come from a line of doctors; he was the one to start it. He was the one just to start the generational emphasis on education and everything. He was one of the first black doctors to be integrated into white hospitals in Kansas City. Just the pride and the resilience he’s kind of instilled into the family; he’s always been someone to keep me going.