The balconies overlooking the Mountain View High basketball court were often lined with little girls watching in admiration during Destiny Slocum’s four-year career with the Mavericks.
The Slocum fan base grew larger in 2017 when she was named the Big Ten and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National Freshman of the Year following her debut season at the University of Maryland.
She brought even more eyes to the women’s game during her stops at Oregon State and Arkansas, where she wrapped up her collegiate career last month as a three-time honorable mention All-American.
On Thursday night, Slocum became the highest WNBA Draft pick in Idaho history, solidifying her status as perhaps the best basketball player the state has ever produced. The 5-foot-7 point guard from Meridian was taken with the 14th overall pick (second pick in the second round) by the Las Vegas Aces.
“Growing up, it’s always been a dream to play professional basketball, and a lot of people around me here thought I was crazy to even have that dream,” Slocum said. “... Each and every day, every opportunity just becomes another path that you pave to open the doors for even more young girls that want to have the same dream. Hopefully, I can open more doors for them as well.”
At least five women with Idaho ties have played in a WNBA regular-season game: Tricia Bader (Boise State), Andrea Lloyd-Curry (Moscow High), Leilani Mitchell (University of Idaho), Heather Owen (Moscow High) and Corissa Yasen (Coeur d’Alene High).
Mitchell, who was born in Richland, Washington, held the distinction as the highest known draft pick with Idaho ties before Slocum, going to the Phoenix Mercury with the 25th overall pick in the second round of the 2008 draft. Bader and Lloyd-Curry both came off the board with the 31st pick, in the 1998 and 1999 drafts, respectively. Owen and Yasen were both undrafted.
Slocum watched Thursday’s draft surrounded by family at her brother’s home in Nampa, mom Christina Slocum said.
“I think it was nerve-racking, but it was also a relief just to hear your name,” Destiny Slocum said. “I’ve been draft-eligible for three years. It’s been something on my mind for three years now, and finally to know that I’m in the perfect mental and physical space to be there and hear my name, I couldn’t be more grateful. And to be able to share it with the people who sacrificed the most for me to have that opportunity, it means a lot to me.”
Slocum averaged 15.0 points, 3.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game last season to help lead Arkansas to the NCAA Tournament. She joined the Razorbacks as a graduate transfer from Oregon State, where she had transferred after Maryland. She totaled 1,800 points, 613 assists, 399 rebounds and 106 steals during her college career.
The Razorbacks averaged 82.3 points per game last season, the No. 4 mark in the country, and Slocum now joins an Aces team that led the league in scoring in 2020.
“I think throughout my college career I’ve improved my willingness to play at a slower pace, but I think genuinely as a player that my game is best suited for someone who loves to run, someone who loves a little bit of pace in their game,” Slocum said. “I think just overall my maturity as a player throughout college basketball would fit me in any system, but obviously I would love to play on a team that plays with pace, and Las Vegas fits perfectly.”
Throughout her basketball journey, Slocum has made headlines.
Over four varsity high school seasons, Slocum collected 2,281 points, 510 rebounds, 442 assists and 304 steals. She averaged 25.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.2 steals per game as a senior, leading the Mavericks to the second of back-to-back 5A state championships.
In addition to being named a three-time 5A SIC player of year and two-time All-Idaho and Gatorade Idaho player of year, Slocum was a McDonald’s, Naismith and NWBCA All-American, and a member of Team USA’s FIBA U-19 World Championship team.
In the 2017 NCAA tourney, Slocum made a 70-foot halftime buzzer-beater in a second-round victory over West Virginia. The two-handed, over-the-head shot landed at No. 6 on ESPNW’s top 10 women’s sports plays of the year. The list included achievements from tennis great Serena Williams, WNBA star Maya Moore and Olympic swimming gold medalist Katie Ledecky.
When Slocum and Oregon State faced the U.S. women’s basketball team in an exhibition game in 2019, four-time gold medalist Diana Taurasi was captured on camera praising Slocum: “I love the way you play,” Taurasi said. “You play hard every time.”
The Aces are coached by Bill Laimbeer of Detroit Pistons Bad Boys fame, and have the reigning league MVP in forward A’ja Wilson. Las Vegas lost in the 2020 WNBA Finals to the Seattle Storm.
“Being able to be around such a talented roster, I mean, they’re literally just books of knowledge,” Slocum said. “... I’m excited to go pick everybody’s brain, go in there and compete and work hard and do whatever they need me to do.”
Slocum’s Arkansas teammate, Chelsea Dungee, went to the Dallas Wings with the fifth overall pick in the first round on Thursday. Another former Slocum teammate, Aleah Goodman of Oregon State, came off the board in the third round to the Connecticut Sun.
When she declared for the draft last month, Slocum thanked Maryland, Oregon State and Arkansas for their respective roles in helping grow her game.
“It’s wild to think I was just an unknown kid from Idaho with a goal to play college basketball,” Slocum wrote in a Twitter post. “Now, seeing that dream unfold before me has undoubtedly been an incredibly humbling and emotional experience. I am grateful for my journey’s success and adversity.
“Through it all, I’ve grown, developed and challenged myself in ways that have prepared me for this next step.”
The Aces open the 2021 season with a two-game series against the defending champion Storm. The opener is scheduled for 1 p.m. Mountain time on Saturday, May 15, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington.
Laimbeer said Slocum and fellow Aces pick Iliana Rupert of France (No. 12 overall, first round) are expected to be “long-term contributors in our league and for this basketball team.”
“She’s a great passer,” Laimbeer said of Slocum. “If you watch some of the passes that she makes, there are very few players in our league that can do that. ... She’s also not afraid. She’ll take the shot.”
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: BRONCOS ADD TO ROSTER
Jayda Clark, a senior at Richland High in Washington, will join the Boise State women’s basketball team this fall.
At Richland High, Clark played for coach Hayley Middleton, whose sister is former BSU standout Braydey Hodgins. Clark also played for Hodgins’ dad, Mike, on the Sagebrush Hoops club basketball team.
“Jayda is a very quick point guard who is hard to stay in front of defensively,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said in a news release. “She is a terrific ball-handler. Bronco fans are really going to enjoy watching her play in a Boise State uniform.”
Clark averaged double-figure scoring during her career at Richland. She garnered all-league accolades each season, including an All-Mid-Columbia Conference First Team honor in 2019-20.
WOMEN’S SOCCER: THREE BRONCOS RECOGNIZED BY MW
Boise State junior center back Macie Nelson was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year on Thursday, according to a vote of the league’s coaches.
Nelson, a graduate of Borah High, is joined on the first team by senior forward Aubree Chatterton (Bishop Kelly High). Boise State freshman forward Mariah Albin (Boise High) earned a spot on the Mountain West All-Newcomer team.
Boise State allowed a program-low eight goals in conference action this season and recorded five shutouts. Nelson tied for fourth on the team in shots taken with nine, which ranked first among defenders. She scored her second collegiate goal — and first since 2018 —on a header against San Jose State on March 21.
“I think it’s game recognizing game,” Boise State coach Jim Thomas said in a news release. “At the end of the day, regardless of how our season has gone, Macie has operated at the most elite level for multiple years now, and I think the conference recognized, not just a good game, or a good season, but a player that’s really separated herself from the rest of the defenders in the league. She truly is a cut above the rest.”
Chatterton landed on the first team for the second year in a row, totaling one goal, two assists and 19 shots. She was limited to five full games after suffering a season-ending ankle injury against Nevada on March 27.
Albin contributed two goals and six total shots, including five on goal.