Matt Spencer (Photo: RMIT Redbacks)
In the lead-up to his 200th Big V game for RMIT this weekend, RMIT Alumni Matthew Spencer sat down with the Swanston Gazettes’ Adam Miller to reflect.
Spencer discussed memories, lessons learnt during his years with the Redbacks, why he decided to re-join the Bundoora-based outfit for the 2023 season, and the big game against the Collingwood All Stars.
A love of shooting hoops was indentured into Spencer from a young age when he first picked up a ball as a toddler.
To put it mildly, it was love at first sight and more than 25 years down the road he is back doing what he loves most for the team which has given him so much success on and off the court.
From humble beginnings playing biddy ball in the Keilor Basketball League, Spencer rose through the ranks of the junior domestic system to rise to the top of the Big V system by the time adulthood arrived.
Spencer's and RMITs linkage dates back to his studying days when he once upon a time was a student at the university.
Those years at the university gave him lifelong friendships and opportunities to further his education in both academia and life.
It also allowed the chance for him to travel all over Australia as a part of the Redbacks UniSport Nationals basketball side.
These trips were a special time for himself and the collective.
Spencer remarks the side “created a culture” that was special and unique to them.
To others, “it may have just looked like a bunch of rambunctious guys who were just enjoying basketball, and being loud”. However, to them it was something more.
The passion and love for the game expressed in the group were simply contagious.
In Spencer's own words the healthiness of the team dynamic off the court and their success on it “paved the way for a few of the OG boys to get together with RMIT and form a Big V team.”
Fast forward 4 years and a pandemic from their inaugural game, a tough 23-point loss against stalwarts Camberwell, the RMIT Big V program continue to grow from strength to strength both on the court and in the locker room.
Both men's and women's sides come off phenomenally successful 2022 seasons in which the teams qualified for the finals and there is a sense of something special brewing on Plenty Rd with Vincenzo Rovetta’s and Tristian Angeles's sides gearing themselves up for a blockbuster 2023 season.
The Redbacks culture is close to Spencer's heart as it is where it all began.
With a smile, he says “It is a family here, it is a breath of fresh air, it is something I want to be a part of.”
The support of long-time friend and captain Steven Coffey gave Spencer an insight into the culture that had been maintained in the squad in the years without him.
Coffey continually checked up on Spencer each week during his rehab progress.
The helping hand and kind voice left the veteran feeling appreciated and valued as both a person and as an athlete.
He says, “it gave me an insight into what playing for the Redbacks could be like not just in basketball but in life overall.”
He and RMIT got talking, had a meeting with head coach Vincenzo Rovetto, and then a subsequent meeting with his soon-to-be teammates.
Everyone was welcoming and keen to have him on board and as they say, the rest is history.
Alongside this friendship, the desire to replicate the victories of the past, while also laying the foundations for an even more successful future is what spurred his decision to re-join RMIT.
The decision to re-join the squad is already repeating the fruits of their labour, with the Redbacks pulling off a nail biting 93-85 victory on opening night against the Chelsea Gulls at the Patterson River Stadium last Saturday.
With the added pressure of being in the starting line-up, Spencer pulled out a 13-point performance in his comeback game to leave him feeling satisfied with the game overall but even hungrier for more success.
With family and friends expected to pack out the Collingwood College stadium, one can most certainly say that Spencer will be feeling the love throughout Saturday night.
Ultimately Spencer hopes he has given enough back to basketball whether it be 'through coaching, providing enjoyment for spectators, or through the passing of knowledge to younger teammates.'
“For a guy with not the greatest array of skills, I’m thankful I made it this far.”
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