The Recruiting Guy:

Junior surprises Neighbors with commitment

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors is shown during a game against New Orleans on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors is shown during a game against New Orleans on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, in Fayetteville.

University of Arkansas women's basketball Coach Mike Neighbors received unexpected good news when junior guard Samara Spencer called him Saturday night to say she wanted to be a Razorback.

"He actually didn't believe me at first," Spencer said. "He was kind of in shock because he didn't know I was close to making my decision. He was like, 'You're kidding,' and I was like no, I'm being serious. He was like, 'Are you joking right now?' and I was like, 'No, I'm not.' "

Spencer, 5-7, of St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., picked Arkansas over George Washington, South Florida, Eastern Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Florida International and Jacksonville.

She made an unofficial visit to Fayetteville for the Colorado State football game on Sept. 14, and she soon realized Arkansas would be her college choice.

"I like the area of Fayetteville," Spencer said. "It was different from Florida, where I'm from. I like the school. The fact it's really the only major college, a lot of fans always come out and support the different sports teams."

Arkansas' style of play means her adjustment to the collegiate game should go smoothly.

"I like how the team plays," she said. "It fits my style. What I do in high school, I really didn't want to adjust from what I'm doing in high school to college."

Spencer averaged 14.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists as a sophomore while leading the Raiders to the Class 8A state championship game.

She averaged 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals during the spring and summer for the highly regarded Nike EYBL Miami Suns, which featured five players who signed with Division I programs.

Neighbors and associate head coach Todd Schaefer have a long relationship with Suns co-founder and program director Miguel Diaz, co-founder and basketball operations head Obel Cruz and co-founder Paul Torres.

"Samara is an electrifying player, big-time athlete, perfect match for Arkansas," Diaz said. "Coach Schaefer and Neighbors did a great job of identifying her as a good fit. They both recruited our program heavily through the years. Coach Schaef is one of the best recruiters in the nation. He really zeros in on kids that fit for what they're looking for in a player and a character standpoint."

Neighbors and his staff signed the No. 16 class nationally last week for the 2020 class. Arkansas is off to a strong start for the 2021 class with the addition of Spencer, who joins junior guard Ashlyn Sage, 6-2, of Weatherford, Okla., and junior post player Emrie Ellis, 6-2, of Ada Vanoss, Okla., in the class.

Spencer said she pictured herself at Arkansas while watching Neighbors and his staff conduct practice during her visit.

"After I watched the practice, I pictured myself in the drills they were doing because I do it now," Spencer said.

She and her mother felt at ease with Neighbors during the trip.

"When I went on my visit, we had a lot of things in common," Spencer said. "My mom had a lot in common with Coach Neighbors. TV shows and stuff like that. We could relate to a lot of things."

Spencer carries a 4.0 grade-point average, and she has an eye toward studying medicine.

"I've thought about going into the medical field," she said. "I just like the fact of helping people."

Diaz said Spencer raises her game to another level on the big stage.

"She loves the big shot, loves the big game," Diaz said. "She's getting better as a player. She's just scratching the surface."

Email Richard Davenport at rdavenport@arkansasonline.com.

Sports on 11/19/2019

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