PaliHi’s Anthony Spencer Wins Gold at Maccabiah Games

By Sue Pascoe

Anthony Spencer, who made the Palisades High School varsity basketball team last year as a freshman, just returned from the Maccabiah Games in Israel with a gold medal in the Junior

Basketball competition (15-16-year-olds). “It was great representing the U.S.A.,” Spencer said.

The Games are open to Jewish athletes from around the world, and all Israeli citizens, regardless of their religion, are allowed to compete. This year a record 10,000 athletes competed in 45 sports, making this the third-largest sporting competition in the world, after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

One hundred teenagers were invited to try out for the basketball team, and only 12 players were selected from New York, New Jersey, Alabama, Florida and Southern California.

Anthony Spencer drives in for a layup.
Anthony Spencer drives in for a layup.

With head coach Brian Schiff, the team flew into Israel on June 26. “We had practice and did some touring,” Spencer said.

The team’s first game against Australia on July 10 was a blowout win with a 65- point spread. “We played pretty well,” said Spencer, a 5-11 point guard, who was the youngest player on the team.

The U.S.A. also made short work of Canada, winning by 30 points. The next game against Israel was the closest any opponent came, but U.S.A. still won by nine points.

After that, the talented Americans beat Mexico by 60 points and Argentina by 30 points, before defeating Argentina again, 53-33, in the gold-medal game.

Two years ago, Spencer represented Los Angeles in a Maccabiah tournament in Florida. Even then he was impressive, and coaches remembered, inviting him back this winter to try out for the U.S.A. team.

Over spring break, Spencer joined his new team to practice with two coaches from the University of Massachusetts, who were originally going to take the team to Israel. But summer commitments made that impossible and Schiff, a Philadelphian, replaced them.

Anthony Spencer (center, next to coach Brian Schiff), after winning the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games.
Anthony Spencer (center, next to coach Brian Schiff), after winning the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games.

“He was great,” Spencer said.

In addition to winning a gold, Spencer went through a ceremony that was equivalent to a bar mitzvah. “Connecting with my religion was cool,” Spencer said. He explained that he hadn’t gone through a typical ceremony because “I wasn’t really that religious.”

Spencer is “religious” about basketball, though. Growing up, he attended Marquez Elementary and Paul Revere, participating in baseball, soccer and basketball. His mom, Robin,remembershimplayingbasketball at the Palisades-Malibu YMCA and the Palisades Rec Center.

“I’ve been playing basketball all my life,” Spencer said. “But I started seriously training around eighth grade.”

Spencer plays travel ball through the AAU, attending practices in areas such as Carson and Long Beach. “Playing on a travel team gives me more exposure [to college coaches],” he said. “They all come to watch travel teams.”

He noted that coaches start focusing on players who are about to enter their junior year.

The travel season begins after the high school basketball season ends in March and runs through July. Spencer took the season off to focus on extra training for the Maccabiah Games.

Now that he’s back in the Palisades, Spencer has been working out on the court five to six days a week, for up to two hours each session. You might see him at the Palisades Rec Center or at the high school or in Santa Monica, where he works with a trainer.

Additionally, three days a week, he spends another two hours working on strength, speed and jumping.

How does PaliHi’s team look for the coming year? “We lost eight seniors and a lot of guys will have to step up,” said Spencer, who is already doing his part with double prac- tices all summer long—on his own time.

Asked what he thinks his strengths are, Spencer replied, “My leadership and ball handling.”

The son of Ken and Robin, Spencer has a sister, Stephanie, who is attending Loyola Law School, and a brother, Michael, who played basketball at Pali and is now headed for UC Berkeley.

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