A unique connection doesn't take Pueblo West boys baketball's Danny Spence's eyes off the prize

Alexis Smith, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.
·3 min read

Feb. 24—For Danny Spence, basketball is second nature.

Despite having a unique connection to East High School, the Pueblo West High School makes it a point to maintain focus in the paint when the two schools meet.

Spence's grandfather, Melvin L. Spence, is known for being inducted into the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1977, the Greater Pueblo Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, and his work in Pueblo School District 60 as the Eagles' gym is named after him.

"My grandpa was a principal here, he coached football and wrestling here," Spence said. "He was a really good wrestling coach, won a few state championships I believe. So, in order to honor him, they named the gym after him — which is pretty cool."

"Mel" Spence spent four years of his career as the assistant principal of East before spending the next 13 as the principal. He coached the football and wrestling team for five of those years.

Even with all the history his grandfather made at the school, Spence was engrossed with his game when Pueblo West visited East for a league game Feb. 18.

Spence is one of four returners this season for the Cyclones, and much like his teammates, the junior has recognized what needs the team had going into the season.

"Last year was fun, we had a big run," Spence said. "I'm starting to get more minutes and I've got to be more of a leader this year."

The team currently is currently 2-9 overall and 2-5 in South-Central League play. Despite the losing record, Spence is confident in his team's ability to finish the season on a good note.

"We got off to a slow start, it was pretty rough," Spence said. "I'm starting to adapt to the leadership role, we're playing a lot better and have improved a lot.

"I've learned that I have to take more control ... not be so passive. I've got to step up and speak my mind and get the younger guys ready for next year."

An offensive leader, Spence averages nearly 16 points, four rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game.

Cyclones head coach Ty Trahern said the athlete's work ethic plays a key point in his success.

"He comes to work every day," Trahern said. "He's extremely coachable, you tell him to do something and he does it the right away. We've never had to have any attitude adjustments with him, but he's just a competitor ... a volume scorer.

"People see that too. When he gets going, he has the ability to score in bunches."

As a leader, Trahern said Spence has transitioned well but there is still room for improvement.

"We need him to be more vocal," Trahern said. "But his biggest strength is leading by example with his practice habits and the way he conducts himself on and off the floor."

Pueblo West fell to East 60-48 on Feb. 18, but playing in the gym named after his grandfather, Spence said, is something he treats like any other game.

"It's cool to play in his gym," Spence said. "I mean, I have to treat every game the same and not put any more pressure on myself.

"But it's still cool."

Chieftain and Pueblo West View reporter Alexis Smith can be reached by email at asmith@chieftain.com or on Twitter @smith_alexis27.