“I’ll Be There Friday, Coach”

Colton Spencer’s Unique Journey from Palmer Alaska to Everett Washington


Jerrilyn Brower

Colton Spencer poses inside the Walt Price Center where the Trojans play all of their Home Games

The thunderous voice of Men’s Head basketball coach Mike Trautman echoes in the mostly empty Walt Price Fitness Center on a brisk November night just days before the Trojan’s tip-off their season opener against the South Puget Sound Clippers in what will be a quest to re-establish a culture of winning in the NWAC’s North division. Sophomore guard Colton Spencer takes the ball at the top of the key and drives the right baseline and lays the ball in to the tune of his sidelined teammates’ motivated rally cries. Although Spencer’s journey with the Trojan’s began 8 weeks ago, It was an offseason of trials and tribulations that led him to Coach Trautman’s office and a spot on the team’s starting five.

Spencer began his basketball journey in Palmer, a quiet Alaskan town of about 6,000 people 42 miles northeast of Anchorage. Instead of spending time skiing and snowboarding in the vast landscapes, Spencer spent the majority of his upbringing in the gym with his family, including 4 siblings honing his craft and taking direction from his coach and father. “Growing up, my family has always been my best friends. Moving from Damascus, Oregon to Palmer, we didn’t really have a ton of friends so we really leaned on each other… We pretty much lived in the gym.” Spencer said .

Spencer began his high-school career as an undersized varsity role-player at Colony High school where he gradually earned more minutes to go with a major growth-spurt entering his 3rd year. Reflecting on his Junior season, Spencer recalled moments that left him more motivated than ever, specifically a 4-17 shooting performance in the State semifinals, “My dad and I sat down and decided we were going to grind this out over the summer and I wrote down my goals and we got to work” Spencer said. Spencer’s perseverance helped him lead the Warriors to a state championship and included first-team all state honors for the then senior who would sign a full-scholarship to Lewis-Clark State College, a culture Spencer had always wanted to be a part of.

Spencer throws down a dunk after practice in the Walt Price Center. You can see Spencer and the Trojans play there all season long. (Jerrilyn Brower)

Lewis-Clark State College would serve Spencer a stark reminder that the opportunity to play basketball at the collegiate level was a gift and to never take availability and success for granted. “It was a very humbling experience.” Spencer intensely said. “The experience really tested how much I really love the game. I began questioning myself if this was really what I wanted to do. I would have a couple good practices here and there, but for the most part I got my butt kicked all year”. After appearing in 8 games and averaging 3.0 points as a freshman in a COVID stricken campaign, Spencer looked forward to turning the page in his 2nd season. Unfortunately for the second year redshirt-freshman, Spencer’s untimely bad luck continued as he tested positive for COVID just days before a potential start against the Gonzaga Bulldogs leaving him 15 pounds lighter and fighting for minutes again. Spencer would appear in 23 games and average 4.6 points for the Warriors leaving the program searching for a change of scenery.

Spencer would have the chance to play his true sophomore season at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks under scholarship before a change of heart, “I committed but for personal reasons I took a year off to take care of some mental things” Spencer recalled. As the Fall Quarter began, Trojan Men’s Basketball coach Mike Trautman was dealing with his own trials in the sport, losing potential starting guard Daniel Heddings to a season ending injury that left him searching for a lone guard with a scholarship opening available. Coach Trautman leaned into his heavy recruiting efforts and made the phone call to the teamless Spencer. “Colton and I first met in the Spring of his sophomore year at a showcase in Alaska and I loved the way he played. We always kept in contact In case he was available later down the road” Coach recalled. Spencer’s gap year was just beginning when he realized he may have made a mistake taking a temporary hiatus from his passion, “I was shooting around with my cousin and knew I wanted to play, I thought there and then that I had messed up and that’s when Coach Trautman called me”. Spencer said.

Coach Trautman’s pitch to Spencer appeared like a juggling act so late in the recruiting process to make the signing possible, “I was down in Utah recruiting and contacted Spencer and told him I have a couple guys who have an apartment to share, it’s $500 a month and we can get you into some late-start classes. Spencer needed a job to pay for the apartment so we hooked him up at the YMCA” Coach said. Trautman received a simple response from Spencer, “I’ll be there Friday coach” and the Colony High School grad was now a Trojan.

Despite the late entrance into the Trojan’s locker room, Spencer’s tenacity and ‘take no play off’ mentality has resonated with

Sophomore Guard Colton Spencer shoots a free throw down the stretch of the Trojan’s 74-69 Win over the SPSCC Clippers. (Benjamin Eyman)

Coach Trautman and reinforces his lengthy history of interest in the rural Alaska resident. “Colton is a professional, he plays incredibly hard and takes every rep as if it was a game rep and coming from a 4-year school he really understands that’s what it takes to win consistently.” Coach adamantly said of his new starting guard.

Spencer has quickly adapted to his new teammates and they’re frequent mid-practice banter, looking at it as a building block for holding each other accountable on the court and never tapering expectations, “We wouldn’t be going after each other at practice the way we do if we didn’t think we could win the whole thing.”