Santa Monica High School varsity point guard Spencer Freedman (’18) describes his style of basketball as “deceptive.” He isn’t toweringly tall or extraordinarily burly. By his own admission he is not the fastest kid around. Yet on the court, his play tells a different story.
With the ball, Freedman moves at a blistering pace. As he traverses up the court as varsity point guard, his head is raised and calculating. He has been called a basketball “IQ Floor General” by Fullcourt Press because of his commanding and intellectual presence on the court. When Freedman eventually reaches the opposing defense, his movements are razor-sharp and well-rehearsed. It’s his skill, in spite of any physical shortcomings, that deceives Freedman’s opponents.
This style of play, however, takes a lot of work. Freedman wakes up at 5:30 a.m. each morning, and heads to the school gym to practice alone with a Santa Monica coach. There, he works on his shot and ball-handling skills.
Freedman’s shot is precise and measured. His arm releases the ball at the same angle for each shot. For what it lacks in bravado, it makes up for in accuracy. But while Freedman scores in his YouTube highlight reels, he rarely acknowledges his success. He is stone-faced and unaffected.
After his morning practice, Freedman begins his day-long endeavor of cramming carefully calculated calories of food into his system to keep up with his athletic schedule. As sixth period rolls around, he starts his next practice with the Samo team.
As a freshman, Freedman’s decision to play for Samo is relatively recent. Out of middle school, he was already receiving attention from local media and scouting organizations about where he would commit. His decision was covered by large publications around the Los Angeles area. In the end, Freedman choose Samo.
“What led me to choose Samo [were] the academics,” Freedman said. “It’s also close by my house. I love the kids on the team and the coaching staff is really good.”
Freedman’s first game playing for Samo against Notre Dame still stands out to him to this day; he missed only two shots on the way to scoring 31 points.
“Everything was definitely clicking,” Freedman said.
After Samo practice, Freedman has practices one-on-one with a coach for another two hours. In between practices he continues to eat and drink. His diet consists of a large amount of protein and liters upon liters of water.
Freedman then travels to his fourth practice, typically a strength-building workout. Some nights, he gets home as late as 10:30 p.m. He then tackles homework, and although some days he wishes he could get more sleep, Freedman is never lacking enthusiasm to play basketball. Since he was eight years old, Freedman’s life has been based around the sport. It’s a commitment he is used to.
Freedman’s fellow teammates, including small forward Cole Parker (’16), recognize his dedication and hard work.
“Spencer has an incredible work ethic; he is constantly working on his game,” Parker said. “Sometimes it seems like he lives in the gym.”
Freedman is a 16-year-old freshman, and he acknowledges the controversy this can sometimes entail. He attributes his older age in part to a year he spent homeschooled to prepare for his bar mitzvah in Israel. According to Freedman, many of the best players are often intentionally held-back in school in order to benefit their basketball careers.
“A lot of people in basketball who play [at a] high level stay back a year, or two, some even more than that,” Freedman said. “It’s not really as unusual as it seems.”
Freedman asserts, however, that his older age cannot always give him an advantage because there are many older players on opposing teams.
“[In club basketball] I play against 19- and 20-year olds,” Freedman said. “In high school, varsity is [against] juniors and seniors.”
Currently, Freedman is ranked fourth in the state and 11th in the nation as a point guard by scouting website Future150. He has ambitious goals, hoping to play in the NBA one day.
It’s easy to draw parallels between Freedman and his favorite player Steve Nash. NBA Point Guard Steve Nash, like Freedman, is a smaller than average, yet Nash received back-to-back MVP awards due to his tremendous ball-handling and shooting skills. Freedman’s goal is ambitious but not disillusioned.
“I get my motivation from wanting to be the best, and I know that to be the best I must work the hardest,” Freedman said. “I keep [playing] because there is nothing that I would rather be doing than playing basketball.”