McSpadden wants ball in clutch situations

When the game is on the line, Chance McSpadden (6-4, 180, Winter Haven, FL) wants the ball in his hands. “I’m pretty confident that I can make a play,” McSpadden said Monday night. “I’m confident I can make a shot and if I’ve got a teammate open, I know I can get him the ball.”

Just ask the Gibbs Gladiators what McSpadden can do.

Back on February 1, Winter Haven was trailing Gibbs, 72-66, with less than 20 seconds remaining and the Gladiators had a shooter on the foul line.  Winter Haven rebounded, got the ball to McSpadden, who nailed a 3-pointer to cut the margin to three.

“They called time out,” McSpadden said. “We fouled their guy and he missed another free throw. There’s 10 seconds left. I’ve got the ball and they know we’ve got to hit a three so I do a crossover move and get free. I’ve just got a little opening but I hit the shot to tie the game. We ended up winning (91-88) in three overtimes.”

McSpadden scored 24 points in that game and finished the season averaging 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. A lefty with range, McSpadden is a 47% shooter who is best defined as a slasher. He got to the foul line 140 times during the season and doesn’t shy from contact.

There is no question he can score, but he doesn’t want to be known strictly for putting the ball in the hole.

“I’ve got an all-around game,” he said. “There’s a lot more to the game than just shooting. I work just as hard at the other things as I do shooting. You can’t just rely on your shot. You better be able to do what your team needs. It’s about winning. Personal stats don’t mean anything if you don’t win.”

Although Winter Haven’s season came to an end in the regional quarter-finals, McSpadden will have plenty of chances to experience winning in the spring and summer as part of Nike Team Florida, which finished second the 16-and-under

AAU nationals last year. Nike Team Florida will step up to the 17-year-old division on the Nike circuit this year, but it’s one of the favorites to bring home a national championship.

“We’re out to finish the deal this year,” McSpadden said. “We nearly won it last year. This year we’ve got the team. We feel really confident.”

McSpadden will be joined on Nike Team Florida by 2015 Florida commitment Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 195, Live Oak, FL Suwannee County), 2016 Florida commitment Johnny Mooney (6-9, 220, Altamonte Springs, FL Lake Brantley), UCF commitment Chad Brown (6-8, 210, Deltona, FL) and Haanif Cheatham (6-5-1/2, 185, Fort Lauderdale, FL Pembroke Pines Charter).

It’s a lineup with so much versatility and talent that McSpadden believes it brings out the best in him.

“We’ve got a lot of talented guys on our team,” McSpadden said. “No one guy has to carry us. It brings out the best in you when you play with talented guys who think about the team first.”

That team-first approach is one of the reasons McSpadden is attracted to the Florida Gators, who he says are recruiting him the hardest along with UCF and USF. He’s also got offers from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Clemson.

When it comes to Florida, McSpadden says there is plenty to like.

“They’ve got a winning history and you know they’re going to have a chance to win big every year,” McSpadden said. “I went there to visit (camp and unofficials) and I like the campus and the coach. I really like Coach (Billy) Donovan and I like his assistant coaches, too. I like the players including DeVon (Walker). I’ve known him a long time. The Gators have shown me a lot of support. They’re recruiting me as a combo.”

There is also an offer from Harvard, which has something to do with his 3.7 GPA and pre-SAT scores.

“I’ve got grades,” McSpadden said. “I work hard on my academics. I’m really hoping to major in business or maybe sports management. I’d like to be able to do something in sports when I finish basketball, so some sports-related business or maybe sports management.”

If he has one passion besides basketball, it’s his basketball shoes collection. He’s not sure how many pairs he has, just that it’s a lot and it continues to grow.

“Yeah, you could say I’m a shoe freak,” McSpadden said with a laugh. “I keep adding more all the time … all Nike, of course. Gotta stay true to Nike since I play for Nike Team Florida.”

LOOKING AHEAD: McSpadden will visit Florida on March 8 when the Gators face Kentucky … Although he lists Florida, UCF and USF as his three favorites, it’s really about two teams – UF and UCF – and really, if Florida lets him know they really want him, he will be a Gator … Nike Team Florida is very UF friendly. It’s alums who have played or are playing for the Gators include Walter Hodge, Nick Calathes, Chandler Parsons, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin and DeVon Walker.

Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.