UAAP Basketball

‘Got to move on’: James Spencer not returning for UP Maroons 

Naveen Ganglani

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

‘Got to move on’: James Spencer not returning for UP Maroons 


Veteran guard James Spencer, who decides to skip his final playing year for the UP Maroons, hopes to ‘explore Asian routes’ after his semi-pro stint in Australia

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-Australian standout James Spencer confirmed he will not play out his final season of UAAP eligibility with the UP Fighting Maroons later this year, as he decided to focus on the next steps of his basketball career. 

The 23-year-old Spencer, who made an official announcement about his decision on social media, is now training and playing with the Dandeong Rangers in the NBL1 South, a semi-professional league in the land Down Under. 

“I’ve got to move on and get on with my career and I know they want to do the same,” Spencer told Rappler in an exclusive interview on Thursday, April 20, indicating the decision was mutual between him and the UP men’s basketball team. 

“It’s no hard feelings. I spent four years in that school and I had the time of my life.”

Spencer is still recovering from the torn plantar fascia injury he sustained last May during the Season 84 finals against Ateneo. He’s been focusing on rehab the last few months in Australia, and continues to work on strengthening his foot as he eases back into game action.

“I’m definitely in a better place with my foot. With regards to the pain, it’s clearing up. It’s taken a few months of me being at home, being diligent with my rehab, and not having the load that is required in college. It’s been good being back home,” Spencer shared.

“I’ve just been trying to [be in the] present and enjoy. I only got back to playing a few weeks ago. I’m trying to have as good a season as I can. The season goes up until August. I’m trying to have a good season and see where that takes me.”

Clutch games

Spencer said he hopes to “explore Asian routes” once the season ends in case a playing opportunity opens up in basketball leagues in Japan, Korea, or Taiwan.

He didn’t play much as a reliever in his first two UAAP campaigns before earning a clear-cut role as a 3-and-D wing starting Season 84. 

UP’s Season 82 campaign in 2019 ended when Spencer was unable to make a game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds of the Maroons’ defeat to lower-seeded UST. 

He then saved a video clip of that missed shot on his phone which served as motivation for his improvement during the course of the next few years, which included his first stint at NBL1.

Interestingly, it would be Spencer – from the same spot where he previously missed – who hit the go-ahead triple for UP in the final minutes of their win which ended Ateneo’s 39-game winning streak at the end of the Season 84 elimination round. 

He then hit the game-tying triple to force overtime in Game 1 of the finals where UP mounted a comeback to take lead of the series and go on to win in three games.

“Ideally, I should have allowed three to four months for a natural, full recovery, but I had to cut my recovery short,” Spencer said of the postseason repercussions of his torn plantar fascia. 

“I only gave it two months of recovery and then I went to season preps for Season 85. Not giving it that kind of time to heal kind of made the pain turn into more of a chronic pain, and I was just managing and playing with that.”

‘Crazy journey’

Despite being hobbled, Spencer still had his best season in UP’s Season 85 title defense bid, averaging 6.4 points a contest while shooting 30% from deep and being second in his team in minutes. 

His final UAAP performance was a team-high 14-point effort against the Blue Eagles in their Game 3 triumph to reclaim the league’s men’s basketball crown.

“It is bittersweet leaving the school on a loss to Ateneo in the finals,” Spencer admitted, “especially when I said in the press conference after the game, ‘I’ll be back,’ because I had every intention of winning another championship this year with UP, and then leaving on that high.”

But he takes solace in being part of a memorable title run the university was ambitious for.

“Such a crazy journey,” he described it. 

“At least even though it was the shortest-lived championship,” he laughed, “we did that. We ended a 36-year title drought and that’s something that’s etched my name and the names of players on that team in history.”

Spencer feels confident that the Season 84 squad will eventually have a reunion 10, 20, or 30 years from now and that the theme for the meeting will be gratitude.

Professional career

Spencer shared that the last few weeks have allowed him to “get to the point where I’m more comfortable and trusting with my body.”

Being around trusted people in his life, both at home and work, has contributed to his recovery.

“The big part of me choosing to stay home is to be surrounded by my family and be surrounded by love. I play in an environment where I’m highly valued, the load isn’t super high, but it’s still very competitive hoops.”

According to NBL1, Spencer has career averages of 5.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 37% shooting from the field. Dandenong is 2-2 to open the current season.

Even in the early stages of what is shaping out to be the road to a professional career, Spencer is aware he may never get to experience the fandom which he appreciated constantly while in the UAAP.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever play in front of a crowd as amazing as what the UAAP has to offer. That’s something to this day I still think about regularly – how crazy the support is in the Philippines,”  he said. 

“Being out there on the floor and it being so loud that you can’t even talk to your teammates – you have to use your eyes, and you have to find other ways of communication. You can only talk after a whistle!”

“It’s so bloody electric and it’s something I never took for granted,” Spencer added. “I cherished that every day, and I’m glad I got to play four years of UAAP basketball.” –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!