Spencer comfortable with her back-up role

GETTING DOWN TO WORK: Bendigo Spirit's Ashleigh Spencer at work at McKerns Steel in California Gully can't wait for the WNBL season to tip-off. Picture:: KIERAN ILES

GETTING DOWN TO WORK: Bendigo Spirit's Ashleigh Spencer at work at McKerns Steel in California Gully can't wait for the WNBL season to tip-off. Picture:: KIERAN ILES

YOUNG Bendigo Spirit back-up Ashleigh Spencer believes the season spent honing her craft in the SEABL will be invaluable as she starts her second year in the WNBL.

The 24-year-old was one of three current Spirit players to spend the winter season under the guidance of one of the club's assistant coaches David Flint at Ballarat Rush.

She averaged solid numbers, including 13.2 points per game, 6.1 rebounds and two assists.

In a statistic that did not go unnoticed by Spirit head coach Simon Pritchard, Spencer also found range from beyond the arc, nailing 17 of 44 three-points attempts at the tidy average of 38.6 per cent - 10th best in the league among players who played at least half the season.

"She had a very good season in the SEABL," Pritchard said.

"Her point production we were very happy with - she had a few 20-point games which was great.

"Looking at her coming back, (compared with) a year ago, she didn't have any three-point range and now she can genuinely stick a three point shot."

A deeper Spirit rotation, bolstered by the recruitment of Nadeen Payne and Ashleigh Karaitiana, means minutes will be hard won for Spencer in 2016/17.

But her value to the team goes well beyond numbers with Pritchard going as far to describe the South Australian native as the "glue who holds the team together".

"She really contributes at training, has a high basketball IQ and can pick up scout work so we can prepare for the next game," he said.

"She really understands the game and knows who the ball should go."

Spencer said she was rapt to be back in Spirit colours.

Not that she ever really went anywhere, continuing to live in Bendigo and work at McKern Steel while playing at Ballarat.

She has also thrown herself full throttle into a 12-month strength and conditioning program.

Spencer takes maximum pride in her role as a back-up, approaching each practice session against championship teammates Kelsey Griffin and Gabe Richards as she would her rivals from Townsville or Dandenong.

"It's very hard as you would imagine going up against Kelsey and Gabe, they're great players, but I wouldn't have it any other way," she said.

"But I want to play against the best and defend the best at practice."

Spencer was confident success was just around the corner for the Spirit.

“The vibe is great, everyone is so pumped and excited,” she said.

“It’s a news page – it’s onwards and upwards from here.

“Everyone is buying into what Simon and the coaches are doing and excited by what’s to come.”

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