Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)
For nearly a decade, the Spratt family has been synonymous with Central Bucks West athletics.
Abbey, Thomas and Teddy were fixtures on the basketball court and baseball diamond for the Bucks before moving on to the collegiate level. It made perfect sense that Emily would follow her older siblings' footsteps not only to athletic success at West, but a spot at the next level, too.
Central Bucks West senior, Emily Spratt (above), will play collegiately at Jefferson next year (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The youngest Spratt made that part official in June when she committed to Jefferson ahead of her senior season at West.
"I grew up watching CACC basketball," Emily Spratt said. "I think I've just grown up watching Jefferson and always thought it would be so cool to play there because they were always the best and it seemed so full-circle to go there."
As a sophomore, Spratt was starter and a key player on West's District 1 6A title team, averaging 9.8 points a game and serving as a defensive stopper as the Bucks claimed their first district championship since the 2014-15 season. Playing with Maddie Burke, last year's Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year as a Penn State freshman, Jess Broskey and Liv Irons during that run gave Spratt a firsthand look at how to be a leader.
This past season, during an unprecedented year coupled with unusual challenges on and off the court, Spratt took a leap. She inherited Burke's role as focal point of the opposing defense, but handled it in stride while keeping up her defensive intensity and upping her scoring average to 16 points a contest.
Bucks coach Zach Sibel wasn't at all surprised that Spratt was able to navigate all the 2021 season asked of her with the poise she did.
"There's a level of maturity she's always had and we saw an adult-like level of maturity last year," Sibel said. "She handled adversity really well. She always had the best defender on the other team guarding her and she just rolled with the punches. She handled some growing pains that went on in the season but never took a step back from it, just kept moving forward and had her breakout in the latter part of the year and never let an off night in one aspect of her game affect the rest."
Sibel noted Spratt's maturity again when saying the rising senior was able to identify pretty quickly what she wanted in her college stop. Her three siblings didn't venture too far from home, with Abbey (women's basketball) and Thomas (baseball) choosing Chestnut Hill College, where their father Bob also works. Teddy (men's basketball), who Emily joked "just had to do his own thing," eschewed the CACC and is about to begin his freshman year at Millersville.
There were a few Division I programs including Binghamton and Colgate knocking, plus some other high-level D-IIs but the proximity of Jefferson, plus the Rams' lineage of success under longtime coach Tom Shirley, was an allure all its own. Rams assistant Matt Bamford, who had a coaching stop at West, is also a family friend so the program was always in Spratt's peripheral vision.
"(Bamford) would always joke with my sister about me going there, so I feel like there's always been a connection," Spratt said. "It got a lot more serious during the COVID shutdown, that's when other schools started talking to me. I knew I was always serious about Jefferson."
It certainly helps that Spratt's had plenty of good influences to draw from over the years. Her father - and several aunts and uncles - are West graduates, plus three older siblings that were quintessential "West kids" left a bar to live up but also an example to follow.
"They're the quintessential 'West' family, every one of them has been a gym rat and invested in putting the work in," Sibel said. "I coached Teddy in baseball when he was in eighth grade and Emily since middle school, plus knowing Abbey and Thomas, it's just what they bring, the athleticism and talent but also that work ethic."
Spratt (above) was a standout wing for Comets Basketball on the GUAA circuit this summer. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
At this point, it'd probably be hard to find someone in the West community that doesn't have a tie to Spratt, either directly or by osmosis through a sibling or teammate.
"It still doesn't seem real that I'm going to leave home because I'm the baby and I didn't seem like I'd ever go to college," Spratt said. "It's really motivating for me and if anything, makes me want to work even harder."
Spratt, who has already talked with the Jefferson staff and will follow their traditional plan of first-year students taking a redshirt, likely won't get the chance to take the court against her older sister even if Abbey decides to take the extra year of eligibility in 2022-23. Still, it's a point of pride for the four Spratt siblings that they've all made it to the next level athletically.
Sibel can relate a bit. He and twin brother John, the wide receivers coach at Lehigh, were both college athletes with Zach playing basketball at Del Val and John football at Lycoming, which happen to be major rivals. The third-year Bucks coach said there's nothing like watching a sibling compete.
"It's a bond, my brother and I had it and when you get to that college level, it's elevated for sure," Sibel said. "I would shut down everything else on Saturdays when John was playing at Lycoming because I was so invested in that. With Emily and her family, they're invested in that and the family ties and family bond creates an incredibly important support system for them.
"It's a cool thing, definitely unique and to have all four now going to play in college is a testament to the kids but also their parents as well."
With the Bucks, she's had Sibel and assistant coach Jen Fabian plus teammates like Burke, Paige Gilbert - a freshman on William and Mary's women's lacrosse team, who also holds the basketball program record for charges - along with plenty of others to lean on. Then there are the opponents who demand all of Spratt's time and effort on defense.
Part of the Comets AAU program, Spratt competed with and against an extremely talented roster of players committed or drawing interest from Division I and high-level Division II programs like Maggie Doogan, Grace O'Neill and Maeve McErlane. Playing with - or in the case of Taylor Hinkle, a Comets teammate and high school rival at Central Bucks South - against that crew has also shaped Spratt's growth as a player.
"Being great friends with Maddie (Burke) but also working out with her and having her on my team changed me as a player and the way I looked at basketball," Spratt said. "The girls on my Comets team, I think they've rubbed off on me every time we were on the court. They're all so inspiring and I try to take something from each of them and apply it to my game."
Spratt's biggest leap last year was starting to look for herself more and the payoff came in adding nearly six more points to her per game average, as well as a stretch in February saw her score 19 or more points in four straight games.
"You have to think about 'what am I on the court for?' When you're on a team with so many great players, you have to know at some point, someone will have to step up," Spratt said. "Some games, that's you and some games, it's not going to be you. If your shot's not falling, it's not falling, that happens, but you can always be better on defense, you can always hustle more, there's no excuses for not doing that."
Among all the other influences along the way, Spratt made sure to include her parents Bob and Melanie. With four children all involved in one or more sports and the hectic scheduling that goes with it, they made sure everyone got where they needed to be when they needed to be there.
Spratt laughed when asked how her parents would manage the upcoming season, where potentially all four siblings could be playing in four different places on the same day. She’s eager to see what a relatively young but enthusiastic West team can do and that she'll be able to do so with her entire family right there with her.
"I don't know what they're going to do, but they always seem to figure it out," Spratt said. "I don't ever understand how they do it, but they always figure it out. They're our biggest supporters, all of us, we seriously wouldn't be where we are without them."