For the University of Northern Colorado basketball star Andre Spight, the road to UNC has been long traveled. But as he settles down for his final season as a collegiate basketball player, he looks back at how it all started.
Spight was born and raised in Burbank, California, as an only child.
At the age of 2 he picked up his first basketball, but surprisingly, that wasn’t the first sport he played.
“I first played soccer,” Spight said. “My dad thought that it would help with my footwork because he knew I would be playing basketball.”
Although Spight’s dad played basketball in high school and college, it wasn’t something that was forced upon him growing up.
Spight says that he was thankful that his parents didn’t really push him to play basketball like other parents sometimes do. It was more of them pushing him to do what he loved, and basketball just happened to be that.
At a young age, Spight noticed he was getting pretty good at basketball and started taking it more seriously than most kids.
“I think I was 8 years old when I was playing for the YMCA junior Lakers and I noticed that I was starting to get more awards than the other kids,” Spight said. “Around that time, I knew I was getting pretty good”
Spight continued playing basketball through the years and went on to play at Burbank High School in his hometown. He played three years at Burbank, having reasonable, individual, and team success, but decided it would be best for his basketball career to complete his final year at Pasadena High School.
“I had to transfer to Pasadena which is a well-known basketball school for better exposure,” Spight said.
Spight went on to average 24 points per game in his senior season for Pasadena which led to him winning the league MVP. He also accomplished one of his childhood goals along the way, by helping his team win the Pacific League title.
After high school, Spight was fortunate enough to receive offers to play college basketball, and after weighing his options decided to go to University of Texas El Paso.
He signed his letter of intent, he packed his bags and was ready to go UTEP, but about a month before school started, he got a call. He didn’t meet the requirements for enrollment, so he could no longer attend the school.
After the news went public, Coach Ken Deweese, an assistant coach at UTEP called Spight and told him to go to South Plains Junior College in Levelland, Texas.
“Coach Deweese referred me to South Plains because they were ranked No. 1 in the country and they were a big-time powerhouse school,” Spight said. “They sent all their players Division I almost every year”.
Spight took Deweese’s advice and it turned out to be the best thing for him. He went on to lead the Texans to a 58-13 record and was second on the team in scoring with 14.8 points per game his sophomore season.
After finishing his second season at South Plains, the recruiting process opened back up for Spight. New schools called left and right to see if he wanted to play for them.
A few schools caught his eye, but Arizona State and Coach Herb Sendek won him over.
Spight committed to Arizona State and was on his way to Tempe when the school year was over. But before the school year ended Sendek was fired and Spight had to make a decision on if he would stay committed or consider another school.
Seventeen days later ASU hired Bobby Hurley as the new head coach and Spight decided to stay committed to the program.
In his first season with ASU, Spight played in 27 games and started eight of them, averaging just under 7 points in 20 minutes. He also had a career-high 21 points vs UCLA.
The season looked to be going well from the outside looking in, but from Spight’s perspective it wasn’t going how he planned.
“I played about 20 minutes a game, wasn’t really liking my role on that team as just being a spot-up shooter,” Spight said.
With four games left in the season, Spight decided to leave the program and just finish out the school year.
During the rest of that year, he was focused on looking for a new school and somewhere that would give him an opportunity to play his style of basketball.
“I just wanted the ball in my hands a little more,” Spight said.
After months of talking to new and old coaches, Spight found the right school for him and chose to go to the University of Northern Colorado.
Coach Deweese, the one who refereed Spight to South Plains and helped recruit him to UTEP, got an assistant coaching job at UNC.
His relationships with Deweese, along with the new head coach at UNC, Jeff Linder, who recruited Spight back when he was at Boise State, were the primary reasons for his decision.
After leaving ASU, Spight decided to use his summer playing for his country of Armenia in the FIBA European Championships. In the past, his coach wouldn’t allow him to so when the opportunity presented itself again he was excited to accept.
The team ended up winning gold and Spight won the MVP and ended a successful summer ready to get to Colorado.
When he arrived at UNC he knew he would have to sit a year because of transfer rules, but he was motivated by the opportunity and was ready to work.
“My redshirt year went really well for me, because I got to focus on myself, my grades and my family,” Spight said.
Throughout the redshirt year, he was also able to build a relationship with his teammates on and off the court.
“I think even though Dre couldn’t play, him practicing and traveling with the team last year helped build a chemistry that helped us going into this season,” teammate Jordan Davis said.
Everything he focused on this past year was to help him prepare for his final chance to show what’s he’s got and make a dream of playing in the NBA a reality.
So, with just under two months left in his final season, Spight shares the most important thing he’s learned over his college career.
“Every day take advantage of what you have because it can all go away so fast,” Spight said.
Spight’s goal this year is to win the Big Sky and try and make a splash in the NCAA tournament.
The goal was never to be better than last year’s team and with a lot of time left in the season the team still has a lot of work to do if they want to win the Big Sky.
With the dynamic duo of Spight and Davis becoming one of the best backcourts in the league, the Bears hope they can continue winning games and head back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.