MINNEAPOLIS – Samir Doughty and Horace Spencer met through the Philadelphia AAU basketball circuit when both players were in their early teens and got to know each other a little bit although they were members of different teams.
However, the two struck up a solid friendship after Doughty, seeking a new team after deciding to transfer from VCU, looked to Auburn and was hosted by Spencer on his recruiting trip.
“He was a good host,” Doughty, a 6-foot-4 redshirt junior who starred at Math, Civics and Science Charter School, said Friday during a locker room break before the Tigers continued preparations for Saturday night’s national semifinal against Virginia at U.S. Bank Stadium.
‘I’m pretty sure everybody that he hosted always came here so they knew what they were doing giving him to me. He really didn’t show me around much. It was more we were chilling, talking. He gave me the rundown about this team, about the coaches and about what I would like and what I wouldn’t like.
“He was just being honest with me. He just gave me everything I needed to know about the program before coming here.”
Said Spencer, “I just wanted him to feel like that if you come to Auburn, you could be comfortable, you could plan your role out, you could be part of a family more than a basketball player."
After sitting out a year under NCAA transfer rules, Doughty has played an important role in Auburn’s unlikely march to the Final Four. He is the Tigers’ top three-point shooter at 42.6 percent.
He started 27 of his first 30 games this season, but has spent the last nine contests coming off the bench contributing whatever he can. It was defense last Sunday when he played 33 minutes in a reserve role and hounded Kentucky sharpshooter Tyler Herro into a 3-of-11 performance in the Midwest Region final win over the Wildcats.
“I always try to be good defensively, always want to guard one of the better wings," Doughty said. “I asked Coach (Bruce Pearl) to let me get that assignment. I knew Tyler Herro was the big key to their offense so that was something I wanted. I wanted to step up to that challenge.”
Spencer, a 6-8 senior forward who played for two years at William Tennant before moving out to national power Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., is a physical rebounder off the bench. He averages two offensive rebounds despite playing just 15.7 minutes per game.
“I take a lot of pride in rebounding,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in being a physical banger. I take a lot of pride in doing what my team asks of me. Anything less is a failure.”
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said each player has “that Philly swag … maybe they are a little tougher because of where they come from.” Doughty said he didn’t know exactly what that meant, but Spencer had a more solid definition.
“It’s probably how hard we play, how tough we are,” he said. “We don’t care about our role, we just want to play basketball and we just want to win. We put everything else aside. That’s probably what he means by Philly Swag and I probably agree with that a little bit.
“I’m a tough player, I’m very physical. Samir’s a tough player. He’s more elusive and more skilled but we sacrifice some things that we know we can bring to the table for what we need to bring to the table.”
On a weekend where there is no Villanova, nor any other City Six team within 1,000 miles of here, Doughty, Spencer and Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, an All-America and ACC defensive player of the year out of Friends Central, are representing the City of Brotherly Love.
All three players know each other through AAU basketball, and both Doughty and Hunter recalled Friday working out together during the summer. Now, all of them are two wins away from a national championship.