Rock-solid senior leadership
By Louie St. George III
Some things in life are better left unsaid.
One might think these are the words that Spencer
Rock lives by. It is safe to say that the senior standout from Duluth
Denfeld is not often asked to quiet down.
Nonetheless, Rock has helped to lead the Hunters
boys basketball team to a 16-2 record, a lofty mark that has put
them in excellent position to earn a No. 1 seed come playoff time.
Never heard of Spencer Rock, you say? It’s
very possible, yet very unfortunate. Sure, his numbers don’t
pop off the page (8 ppg, 5 rpg), but on a team full of capable scorers,
they don’t have to. His role on the team is not to score 20
points a game, and the selfless Rock is fine with that.
“My role of the basketball team is to be
a leader,” Rock said. “I’m a senior captain and
seniors are supposed to be leaders. I want to set a good example
by playing hard and doing what I can just to win and help out the
And thus, Rock may go unnoticed by the casual
observer. After all, how do you keep track of hard work? How do
you log the number of times a player sacrifices his body for a loose
ball? How do you gauge the effectiveness of one’s leadership?
The typical stat sheet does not include a “hustle
points” category. There are no statistical frontrunners in
“effective leadership.” Therefore, Rock’s contributions
to his team are largely intangible.
They have not gone unnoticed by Denfeld head coach
“Spencer is one of the hardest working players
on the team,” Nace said. “He’s also one of the
most coachable young men we have had here at Denfeld. The thing
I admire about Spencer is he always takes suggestions on how to
improve and works on them, he’s always trying to make himself
Rock’s athletic success, though simple to
understand when attributed to hard work, was never a given. He is
not a so-called “natural.” His is a self-made talent,
the kind that comes from countless hours on the basketball court,
in the weight room and at the salad bar.
As a youngster, he was an average athlete. Serviceable,
yet no the kind of kid a high school coach drools over. Maybe a
year on the freshman team, possible a year or two on the junior
varsity, but a senior captain on a very good Hunter football team
(Rock was an all-conference offensive guard, and an all-area middle
linebacker for this past season’s football team, as well as
being voted the defensive MVP), and a future collegiate athlete?
Well, what happened? What turned on the light?
Turns out it was nothing more than son trying to emulate his father.
“My dad always told me how good of a basketball
player he was when he was younger,” Rock commented. “He
used to play on a very competitive team in Utah, against players
like Danny Ainge and Danny Manning (former NBA stars, Ainge is now
the general manager of the Boston Celtics) and I just decided to
start working harder at my game.”
As a junior athlete, he began the transformation.
In the summer months, Rock could be seen jogging the streets of
West Duluth, more than likely from open gym at Denfeld to Memorial
Community Recreation Center for more pickup basketball. He began
eating better and found the weight room. He quietly went about preparing
himself to be a high school athlete.
Chris West, who coached Rock as a 14-yeaer-old
baseball player, and who, as a Denfeld junior varsity basketball
coach, has had the chance to watch him up close once again, says
there is no comparison between who Rock was and who he is now.
“I don’t even think of him as the
same person,” West said. “He’s come so far in
the way that he carries himself. Spencer is an example of why I
love being a coach. To think that in the little time I’ve
coached him, I may have some very small part in his success, is
what keeps a coach going through some of the obstacles each coach
Rock knows there is work to be done as he completes
his high school basketball career. The Hunters have a very realistic
shot of advancing once again to the section final, as they did last
year before losing to an Eric Webb-led Grand Rapids team.
“We want to be there again this year,”
Rock said. “In order for us to get there, we have to improve
on our defense and keep working hard.”
In other words, do the little things that don’t
always show up on the stat sheet.