I had a chance recently to talk with DeFriesland Aris forward Keith Spencer (203-F-85, agency: Hart Sports Mngm) about his experiences playing ball in Holland and his devout faith as a Christian as well. It was truly a pleasure speaking with him and having the chance to know some of his thoughts.
Where did basketball begin for you?
I began to play basketball at the age of 4. My parents placed me in many different activities, but basketball is the one that stuck with me.
Glancing back at college for a second. Do you have any favorite moments, shots, games, anything in particular that you like to look back on?
When I think about my college career, the first thing that pops in my head is the intense training we were given. I’m thankful it, as it has greatly prepared my way for more competitive professional basketball. During that time, I would dread waking up for 5:00 in the morning runs, and intense military type training given to us by coaches. Looking back it now, I see the team building that took place, the unity it provided for us, and overall preparing me for where I am today.
What factors influenced your decision to stay another year in Leeuwarden?
It was dropped in my spirit during the 2008-2009 season that I would return to Leeuwarden for my second professional year of basketball. During the negotiation process I lost sight for a moment of what God was telling me to do, and gave the team a hard time about coming back. In prayer I regained my obedience, and decided to come back to De Friesland Aris.
How is your year going so far in terms of basketball?
The year is going well in terms of basketball. We are winning more games, and are a playoffs prospect. This is much needed for this program and I am happy to be a part of it.
This team has shown it can come back from any deficit and win a close game that can go either way. What’s your mentality when the game is on the line in a pressure situation?
Its just like you said. We have the ability to come back no matter what our standing is in the game. I keep this in mind throughout those close games, and focus on doing whatever I can to help the team.
In which areas do you feel the team needs to improve?
As a team we need improve in sustaining our defense throughout the entire game. Once we have that down, we will really run teams out the gym!
Talk about your role on the team – what do you try to bring to the team?
I really try not to get wrapped up in stats because I feel that throws my focus off on our collaborative efforts as a team. I really focus on the little things such as being THE defensive stopper on the team. That is one thing I take personal and feel that is one of the elements I bring to the team.
What do you most enjoy about playing for DeFriesland Aris?
I really enjoy the community involvement that De Friesland Aris has offered. I commend the general manager and his staff for being such warm, approachable, and genuine people. They really make this experience that much more of a blessing.
Describe your relationship with coach Pete Miller?
Coach Pete Miller and I have a healthy relationship. I respect him as a coach, and I feel he respects me not only as player, but as a man. I understand his philosophy and I do my best in helping him achieve his goals.
Keith, confidence-wise, do you feel that differently than a year ago at this time?
I’ve always had confidence in my team. It feels better knowing that we have what it takes to win any game.
Talk about why you do what you do and to whom your emotions are directed
I feel that God has blessed me with this ability to play basketball. In return, I owe it to Him to step out on the court, play my hardest, and give Him all the glory.
And what is your Christian story and background?
My parents have always raised me in the Christian church. As a youth I didn’t always fully know what it meant to walk in Christian values, and I had my times when I wasn’t living the life God wanted me to live. I am happy to stand before you today and say that I walk by faith and continue to do so. My story is not a simple one, and is actually quite long. I have a blog in which I have written a story about my coming back to Christ, please feel free to check it out at http://tasteofablessedlife.blogspot.com in the About Us section.
How does your faith affect what you do on the court?
My faith keeps me humble on the basketball court. I know that at any moment God can take it away from me, because as He gives, He takes away (Job 1:21). So I remain thankful, and grateful to be in the position that I am in.
Is it tough to be a Christian and a professional sportsman? Is it a hard thing to balance the two?
For me it is not tough to balance the two because I am a Christian first. With that being held supreme in my life, there is no need to balance. Life can be tough, whether you are Christian, an athlete, or not. I can only personally testify of how great it is to allow God to direct my steps.
Have you had any opportunities to witness through your sports experience?
Yes, I feel like I have had opportunities to witness throughout my professional career, and I am thankful for those opportunities. My main goal is to be an example, to be a living witness, and a sacrifice.
Have you ever been pressured by teammates to do something that you, as a Christian, werent comfortable with? If so, how did you handle it?
I have not felt pressured by any teammates. My teammates are well aware of my faith and respect it.
What advice would you give to aspiring Christian athletes?
My advice to aspiring Christian athletes, is to be firm in their faith, and not allow the world to conform them. Remember who you are, what you represent in all that you do. Remember through it all, it is God’s plan, not ours, and His plan will prevail.
Finally, how far can DeFriesland Aris go this season? Which are the goals for you, personally, and for your team?
As long as we continue to play as we have been, we can go as far as we want to go. Our goal as a team is to WIN. My personal goals are to continue to develop as a well rounded player and spread the gospel message. Thanks to you, I have been able to continue to make strides in that aspect of my goals.