As Greg posted earlier today, Cam Spencer has entered the portal. The deadline passed for undergrads to make a decision on returning to school but grad transfers can still enter the portal without penalty. Spencer recently attended an R Fund dinner as well as the Big Ten golf championships so it quite frankly is shocking to see him enter his name in the portal after outwardly appearing to be “all in” with the Scarlet Knights just as recently as last week.
The three-year Loyola Maryland transfer was beloved by fans and teammates during his one season on the banks, making an immediate impact on offense and lighting a spark when Rutgers needed a three. This is truly the first instance in the era of NIL money a coach Pikiell team has been seriously impacted by a player transferring out. Last season, not one Rutgers player entered the portal amidst chaos across the college landscape, which speaks to the stability in the program.
Why Spencer Leaving Really Hurts
Offense. Spencer shot 44% from the field and over 89% from the stripe on an offensively-challenged team so his ability to fill up a stat sheet will be greatly missed. Spencer logged 31 minutes a game last season so Rutgers will need major contributions from his replacements to offset the minutes and the points.
Spencer also averaged nearly 4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2 steals per game and was able to contribute on the defensive end. Cam was quickly embraced by fans early last season with the Riot Squad anointing him “The Camdy Man”. Spencer will be forever in our hearts for making the dagger three against then undefeated No. 1 Purdue.
In my opinion, what really hurts the most is Spencer waiting until mid May to announce his entrance into the portal. I get it - it’s a “business decision”, he has to look out for himself, and if there’s a deal that greatly benefits him, he certainly has to explore it. My issue is waiting this long in the process. When I was a kid, this would be referred to as a “dick move”.
Why Rutgers Will Be Fine
- Spencer’s 13.2 points per game last season, while adequate for an offensively-challenged defensive-minded team like Rutgers, was 456th in the nation for proper context.
- Spencer is a talented player and scorer but could not put Rutgers on his shoulders during the critical stretch run last season. Let’s look at Spencer’s stats in the final 10 conference games without Mawot Mag (who tore his ACL in a February 4th win versus Michigan State).
2/07 loss @ Indiana | 14 points, 1 assist
2/11 loss @ Illinois | 2 points, 2 assists
2/14 loss vs. Nebraska | 8 points, 3 assists
2/18 won @ Wisconsin | 22 points, 1 assist
2/23 loss vs. Michigan | 11 points, 0 assists
2/26 won @ Penn State | 13 points, 1 assist
3/02 loss at Minnesota | 21 points, 4 assists
3/05 loss vs. Northwestern | 9 points, 3 assists
3/09 won vs. Michigan (B1G tournament) | 18 points, 3 assists
3/10 loss vs. Purdue (B1G tournament) | 13 points, 1 assist
Rutgers went 3-7 in the final 10 games, including a devastating loss at Minnesota followed by a dud at home on senior day vs. Northwestern that sealed its NCAA tournament fate. The one game down the stretch that Cam put the team on his shoulder for the victory was at the Kohl Center vs. Wisconsin. If Rutgers can narrowly miss the tournament by playing poorly down the stretch with Spencer, they can certainly do it without him on the roster.
- With a backcourt of rising sophomore Derek Simpson and transfer Noah Fernandes, along with the likely return of Paul Mulcahy for his 5th and final season, Rutgers has ball handlers who can shoot and dish. It won’t be easy replacing Spencer’s 31 minutes per game but coach Pikiell has to feel comfortable with the ball in the hands of speedy talented guards Fernandes and Simpson with Mulcahy likely playing off the ball and being asked to shoot more.
- 5-star incoming freshman small forward Gavin Griffiths may be the top shooter in his class and gives the Knights a true offensive weapon on the wing that they missed once Ron Harper Jr. graduated at the end of the 2021-22 season.
- A healthy returning Mag, along with senior forward Aundre Hyatt, sophomore forward Antwone Woolfolk, and sharpshooting sophomore forward Antonio Chol give the Knights size, length, and depth at the position.
What Would Really Make Rutgers Fine
The return of Clifford Omoruyi for his final season, while he polishes his game around the rim for NBA scouts. I’m Captain Obvious, but potentially losing Cliff is much more significant than losing Spencer if Rutgers wants to compete in the Big Ten this coming season. It’s unlikely Rutgers lands a top shooter to replace Spencer at this point of the offseason. I would imagine coach Pikiell and staff are much more interested in finding available talent down low, either for depth, or in a worst-case scenario where Cliff departs for a professional league.
It’s not very good optics to leave the program hanging like this so late in the transfer season when available skilled players are all but committed. One of the texts I received this morning: “He bleeped Pike”. Yup, Cam screwed coach Pike on this one. No way around it. The anger and heartbreak we feel shows how far this program has come under coach Pikiell. It stings and it hurts but in the end, Rutgers will move on and so will Cam and all we fans can hope is that this change somehow results in someone else stepping up and the team and results the better for it. In the meantime, if you are looking to lift your spirits, Big Ten analyst Andy Katz isn’t worried. You can read his interview here with NJ Advanced Media.