New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

In the Huddle: Spencer Freedman on NYU men’s basketball

WSN spoke with the six-foot guard about NYU’s historic men’s basketball season, and putting Division III basketball on the map with his crafty playmaking and elite shooting.
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Matt Petres
Graduate student Spencer Freedman. (Matt Petres for WSN)

Leading the Violets in a magical season, second-year graduate student Spencer Freedman sat down with WSN to talk about the keys to his success on the court. The NYU men’s basketball squad secured its first UAA league title in 30 years, guided by the six-foot guard who topped the team in scoring, assists, free throws and three-pointers.

In 2022, Freedman transferred from Harvard University, a Division I program, to NYU to pursue his graduate degree in Management and Systems at the School of Professional Studies. Since his arrival, the Violets have done nothing but climb the win ladder each year, transforming from an inconsistent team winning only 56% of its games, to reaching the second round of a major tournament.

Facing Division I talent in the Ivy League for four years, Freedman brings to NYU a level of talent and experience that is hard to come by. As the Violets’ primary game manager and scorer, Freedman has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, including being a figure the younger players can look up to. He describes sharing the little things he observes on the court and motivating the younger guards on the team to embrace their style of basketball.

WSN: How are you helping younger players carry themselves on and off the court?

Freedman: I’ve got a few more games under my belt, so I’m just encouraging them to be confident, not be afraid to make mistakes and take risks because that’s the only way you learn. We have 12 or 13 returning guys and when you’re a freshman, walking into a brand new environment, it’s hard to feel like you can just be yourself.

Five basketball players clash on the basketball court. One player in a white-and-purple uniform labeled “violets” tries to dunk the basketball while three others attempt to block him in green-and-yellow uniforms labeled “HUSSON.”
Freedman makes a layup against Husson University at the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament. (Matt Petres for WSN)

The Division III level is often overlooked by fans, due to a lack of national media coverage and less raw athleticism seen in the other divisions. However, the D-III programs are laboratories of the game. In a traditional college basketball environment, players are confined to a defined role, but at NYU, everyone is a threat with the ball, establishing an unpredictable and free-moving offense that makes defending the Violets an arduous challenge. Freedman attributes a lot of his high-output games to the trust he has with the coaching staff.

WSN: How has the NYU basketball program improved your ability as a basketball player?

Freedman: We give everybody a chance to be whoever they are. A lot of times in college basketball, everybody can look like they’re part of a system. Here it’s more about bringing what you do into that system and less about conforming. Everybody has strengths and we allow them to all play to each other’s strengths. It ultimately comes down to the coaches’ belief and trust in all of us.

An alum of the The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a former basketball player at the University of Pennsylvania, second-year head coach Dave Klatsky is highly respected amongst players for his knowledge of the X’s and O’s and managing relationships. Freedman gave insight into how he’s able to instill so much confidence in the guys on the team.

WSN: What type of voice does Klatsky have in the locker room?

Freedman: He’s a player’s coach. We’re all puzzle pieces — if one of the pieces doesn’t fit in, he’ll just find a different way to make the puzzle work. He makes you feel like you can be the best version of yourself.

A basketball player in a white-and-purple uniform labeled “violets” stares down a defensive player in a white-and-black uniform numbered “30” as he dribbles the basketball.
Freedman with possession of the ball in the team’s season opener against Manhattanville College. (Krish Dev for WSN)

Freedman believes players are encouraged to embrace their style of play and that the Violets have more fun playing basketball than any other team in the country.

The level of competition found at the D-III level surprised Freedman when he transferred teams  two years ago. He noted a few of the similarities between the Ivy League and the University Athletic Association including quick turnarounds between games, intricate offenses and defenses, in-depth scouting reports, high-IQ players and, most importantly, a high level of competition.

WSN: What’s something that might surprise other people about the level of competition that’s found at the D-III level?

Freedman: I’ve been blown away — there isn’t much of a drop-off at all. I didn’t know what to expect, but as time goes on, the level of competition will only get better and people will understand the talent level out there.

Ensuring his future is secure after his basketball career comes to a close is very important to Freedman because there are no athletic scholarships for D-III sports. Whether it’s the self-driving cars in San Francisco or the new Apple Vision Pros Freedman discussed, machine learning and artificial intelligence are passions of his, as they have been since his first year at Harvard.  For him, school is his number one focus.

WSN: How do you balance work as a student-athlete?

Freedman: One day the ball will stop bouncing, you’ll do something else with your life, and that all starts with school. My parents have preached that to me since I was little.

Between the books and the basketball court, Freedman knows how to balance all his passions. For now, though, he’s ready to finish out this milestone season strong.

Contact Logan Holland at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Matt Petres, Photo Editor
Matt Petres is a first-year studying Economics. He is from Chicago, Illinois and likes to bike and kayak. You can contact him on Instagram @matt.petres
Krish Dev, Multimedia Editor
Krish is a first-year planning to major in Computer Science and Linguistics at CAS. In his free time, he enjoys posting photos on @krish_dev.creations, obsessing over geography, watching new films with friends, taking public transport to new places and letting Arsenal make or break his week.

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