Had David Sloan committed to Kansas State straight out of high school, he would have been heralded as a recruiting victory for the Wildcats.
Sloan, a 6-foot point guard from Louisville, Kentucky, had a boatload of scholarship offers two years ago. And he seemed destined to play for Iowa State, Missouri, Memphis, Vanderbilt, Tennessee or maybe even his hometown Cardinals back then. Landing a basketball recruit against that competition would have gone over well for Bruce Weber.
But it wasn’t to be.
Sloan didn’t sign with any of those schools in 2017. He ended up at John A. Logan, a junior college in the small Illinois town of Carterville. One minute, he was a sought-after recruit. The next, he was an afterthought.
“It was one of the toughest things ever,” Sloan said in a phone interview. “It was definitely the toughest thing I have ever been through during my 19 years on this planet.”
What happened? Every junior-college basketball player has a story, but Sloan’s is a bit more complicated than most. His detour wasn’t caused by bad grades, character issues or poor play, but by attending too many schools as a high school senior.
First, he was ruled ineligible by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association when he transferred from one Louisville high school to another. So he enrolled at Conrad Academy, a prep school in Orlando, Florida, and stayed there for six months without realizing the school’s classes weren’t NCAA certified. When he learned those courses weren’t going to count toward his college admission, he tried to make up the difference at another school in South Carolina. But he fell two credits shy of academic eligibility.
His options were slim and his spirits were low, but he perked up when his older brother, Da’Quan Boyd, encouraged him to resuscitate his basketball dreams in junior college and introduced him to John A. Logan coach Kyle Smithpeters.
Fast forward two years and Sloan has done exactly that. He led all junior college players in assists as a freshman and then again as a sophomore. He averaged 12 points, 9.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range last season on his way to conference player of the year and All-America honors.
But his biggest accomplishment came on Tuesday when Sloan officially became a Division I basketball player and signed with K-State, choosing the Wildcats over Cincinnati and Georgetown.
“David is a great addition and we are excited to welcome him and his family to our program,” Weber said. “He gives us an experienced guard who knows how to play and lead his team. He is a high-level passer who can also score.”
He is back on track.
“Everything about the junior-college situation will help me a lot,” Sloan said. “Having to go the junior-college route after having all the scholarship offers I had in high school gives me another chip on my shoulder. My dream has always been to be a professional basketball player, and no one from Louisville has ever gone to junior college and then played in the NBA. I want to be the first.”
Smithpeters has plenty of good things to say about his former player, but he seems most impressed by Sloan’s personality.
Sloan didn’t want to spend two years playing basketball at a junior college, and yet he had a team-first attitude the entire time he was on campus.
“He handled the situation very well,” Smithpeters said. “What happened was unfortunate, but it allowed him to grow and really kind of rejuvenate his love of the game because he realized it can be taken away from you. He’s the kind of person who makes the best out of any situation. He is never going to dwell on the negatives. I think that is why people gravitate toward him.”
It didn’t take long for K-State’s returning players to realize Sloan wasn’t a typical junior-college transfer.
When he played pick-up games with the Wildcats during a recruiting visit last weekend, he surprised many of them with his passes. So much so, that they fumbled away potential scoring opportunities early on, because they weren’t expecting him to distribute quite so much.
“The bigs were very shocked by the way I passed the ball,” Sloan said. “There were a couple passes I threw them and their eyes got real big as the ball was approaching them. They were shocked at first, because I was finding them so open.”
They must not have realized he had as many as 19 assists in a single game at John A. Logan, or that he models his game after Rajon Rondo and D’Angelo Russell.
“It was the same way here,” Smithpeters said. “Our guys dropped all of his passes at first, because they weren’t ready for them. But after a while they learned to constantly have their hands up so they could catch and shoot at any time. He was such a great passer for us you were more shocked to see him with eight assists in a game than you were to see him with 15. He is also a very good scorer, but David is more concerned with winning and making his teammates happy than getting 25 points for himself.”
Those traits should allow Sloan to compete for playing time, and maybe even a starting role, immediately as a junior next season. He joins a K-State backcourt that features Cartier Diarra, Mike McGuirl and Shaun Neal-Williams. Sloan, along with incoming freshman DaJuan Gordon, should help offset the departures of Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes.
The Wildcats haven’t had the best luck with junior-college transfers under Weber. Only Carlbe Ervin stayed two years and played on a NCAA Tournament team. The last two (Amaad Wainright and Austin Trice) were gone after one season in Manhattan. But there is hope Sloan can buck that trend.
His climb to big-time college basketball is over, but his journey isn’t.