How an NYU grad student is making a name for himself on and off the court

NYU basketball’s Spencer Freedman is a graduate transfer student from Harvard University — and has played a crucial role in the Violets’ impressive season.  


(Courtesy of NYU Athletics)

Miller Romm, Staff Writer

Before helping to turn around the NYU men’s basketball program, graduate guard Spencer Freedman was once a four-star point guard at Mater Dei High School, with offers from the University of South California, University of Washington, Rice University and three Ivy League schools.

Raised in Pacific Palisades, California, Freedman learned the game of basketball from his dad. He started his first year at Santa Monica High School before transferring to Mater Dei.

“[Mater Dei is a] national powerhouse,” Freedman said. “The coaching is great, the teammates are great — it is just run so well.”

In his time at Mater Dei, Freedman participated in some of the biggest games of his career, including his 2017 CIF Southern Section semi-finals appearance at USC’s Galen Center. There, he faced off against brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball, who both made it to the NBA. This 2017 game had a college-like atmosphere which included 10,258 spectators and fans. Mater Dei won the highly anticipated matchup, and Freedman notched 17 points. 

“The environment was crazy,” Freedman recounted. “It was the peak of the Ball brother era and it was just insane.”

After competing against the top basketball recruits in high school, Freedman was motivated to take career to the next level, committing to Harvard over numerous Power 5 schools.

“The ball will stop dribbling at some point,” said Freedman, regarding his choice to enroll at Harvard.

Half of being a college athlete is understanding that academics remain essential. For Freedman, that meant choosing the university with the best computer science program. With Harvard boasting both one of the top-ranked computer science programs in the nation, and one of the most successful Ivy League basketball teams, Massachusetts was the ideal destination for the California native. 

During his four years at Harvard, Freedman was on a Crimson team that made the Ivy League championship game in 2019, and even played against his current head coach, Dave Klatsky, in 2021 when Harvard defeated Colgate University 89-84.

Now, he’s spending his final season competing for a chance to play in the NCAA Men’s Division III Basketball Tournament. 

Just two weeks ago, NYU was falling out of tournament contention. Since then, the Violets have embarked on a four-game win streak and, in the last two games, Freedman has averaged 23 points per game, as well as over five assists to place the Violets in prime position to secure a spot in the tournament. During their win streak, NYU defeated four tough conference teams, a feat that would’ve been improbable without Freedman stepping up his game when it mattered most. The team now has a high chance of making it to the tournament. They will close out at home against conference foe Brandeis University. 

Freedman has spent his high school and college years playing the game he loved, but never took his eye off the importance of education. With a Harvard undergraduate degree and an NYU graduate degree in progress, he has a bright future ahead — regardless of this season’s outcome. Following the end of his basketball career, Freedman intends to explore machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“I’ve been so fortunate to be able to have such fabulous life experiences through the game of basketball,” Freedman said. “From attending Harvard, and now NYU, living in such amazing cities and meeting incredible people, the game of basketball has truly opened so many doors for me.”

Contact Miller Romm at [email protected].