Written By: Bianca Matamoros-Koonce for NM State Media Relations
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Basketball is a team sport, and multiple players must play well to win an individual game and their conference. New Mexico State University women's basketball player Madison Spence is without a doubt one of the best players to have stepped on the court donning Crimson and White.
The 2010-11 preseason all-conference selection has helped the Aggies advance to a Western Athletic Conference (WAC) tournament final and claim a WNIT bid in three years.
Before heading into her senior year, she has the confidence that comes from an amazing, successful career at NM State while accomplishing goals and breaking records. However in Spence's world it's more than just about what she is doing on the court.
"I know how much work I have put into this, so to see some things happen is great, but our team still hasn't won a WAC Championship," stated Spence. "That's really what I want to get this year."
Weekends in the life of this student athlete may be boring to some people, including herself, but honestly Spence is dedicated and focused. Going to the gym for an extra hour so she can hit her personal goal of becoming the best three-point shooter in the WAC and heading out to her brother's football game on a Saturday afternoon to show her support is part of her routine. Cheering for her sister at a Special Olympics event or coaching her sister's basketball team, these occasions exemplify her dedication on and off the court. She will at times shadow local Dr. Robert Villalobos to see what being an ophthalmologist is all about, as she pursues her degree. Plus she is studying for all her classes because the two-time Academic All-WAC selection is determined to make a 4.0 each semester.
"I want to be known as the person who worked as hard as they could and did what they could for the team." Spence said. "A lot of what I have learned in basketball reflects the same in life. If you are lazy on the court a lot of times you are lazy with everything."
Spence is a humble player who really cares about the game, academics, the team, and her family.
One of the many characteristics that Spence possesses - always putting others before herself - took a toll on her during her phenomenal sophomore year. She was the fifth-leading scorer in the league averaging 14.3 points per game and was announced WAC player of the Week on Jan 12, 2009 although she powered through the year after being diagnosed with mononucleosis during the season.
"I like being in the gym making my game better and not being able to do anything was hard," said Spence.
It not only was rough for her, it was difficult for her coach also.
"That year was hard for me as a dad because I wasn't seeing my daughter healthy," said head coach Darin Spence.
It is no secret that for the last three years Madison Spence has been coached by her father Darin Spence. Going into this season Madison feels like she has matured immensely by being coached by her father.
"I have really learned to separate the two, I learned to look at it like I am not disappointing my dad," she said. "I take it as he is trying to help but some of the other girls get it pretty good too."
Coach Spence is ecstatic that his daughter made the decision to play at NM State.
"She had a sense of community and wanted to give back," he said. "New Mexico State had an immediate need for her and it was a good situation."
That father-daughter combination has paid off, as Madison became the 17th Aggie to eclipse the 1,000-point career mark all-time at New Mexico State last season. She is just the seventh player in the program's 38-year history to accomplish the feat prior to her senior year.
Madison Spence is a young athlete who plans on furthering her career as a player at the next level as well as attending medical school.
"At one time I wanted to be a gymnast, but I was robbed of that opportunity because I am too tall," she recalled. "Basketball is something I will always enjoy. When I look back at all of this I will appreciate it."
Spence knows that this season will be exciting for Aggie fans since they return four starters this year to lead a more experienced team with eight upperclassmen on a roster of 13. She hopes to leave behind the legacy of being a great leader.
"A bunch of little goals add up to the main goal which is a WAC Championship," she concluded.
Those goals have already begun to accumulate as the Aggies have started practice, and open the season on Friday, Nov. 12 on the road at North Dakota State.