by Michael Smith
Grain Valley junior Grace Slaughter has not only established herself as one of the best girls basketball players in Missouri.
That was evidenced by her sophomore season with the Eagles when she averaged a whopping 27.3 points per game (the highest in Kansas City), 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.3 steals and was named to the Class 6 all-state team.
Last Friday, she can now say she’s one of the best girls basketball players in the United States.
After a week of tryouts in Indianapolis, it was announced that Slaughter made the USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team, joining 11 other players including Blue Springs’ Jada Williams.
“They announced our names in alphabetical order, and my name was one of the last ones called since my last name starts with an S,” said Slaughter, who verbally committed to play at the University of Missouri. “It was nerve wracking for sure, but I knew I left everything out on the floor. I am so excited to get selected.”
So was Grain Valley head girls basketball coach Randy Draper.
“I thought she was going to make it, but the process is so stressful because it’s so selective,” Draper said. “But hey, I didn’t have to go through the process. It’s an unbelievable achievement and is a great reward for someone who works as ridiculously hard as she does.”
Thirty-four finalists were selected by the USA Basketball Women’s Developmental National Committee to attend tryouts in Indianapolis. That number was cut down to 16 players last Thursday before the 12-person roster was announced the next day.
During tryouts, players played scrimmage games, including 3-on-3 and went through drills. At the tryouts, Slaughter was able to display her versatility to coaches and evaluators. At 6-foot-2, Slaughter is able to play and defend multiple positions on the floor.
“That was something I was really going after was to show my versatility,” Slaughter said. “I didn’t want to go in there and just be a straight 3-point shooter even though that’s something I do very well. I can go in there and be a stretch four and play on the perimeter and drive to the basket or I can play in the post. I can be whatever you need.”
That versatility was what helped Slaughter guide the Eagles to a 14-7 record and a district championship game appearance during the 2020-21 season.
“She can do everything,” Draper said. “She can play the point, she can post, she can shoot, she can drive and she’s a really good passer. As good as she was as a freshman, she was even better as a sophomore. She’s shooting the ball really well and she’s gotten stronger.”
Slaughter has still been active playing for her AAU Team, the Missouri Phenoms, which helped prepare her for the Team USA trials. The skill she displays on the court isn’t just natural. Slaughter works diligently on her craft, and puts up shots whenever she can on the court. She even worked on her jump shot following a wrestling tournament that was held at the high school.
“My mom works for the middle school, and she checks the schedule to see when cheerleading is in the gym, when is wrestling in there, when is color guard in there,” Slaughter said. “We definitely find pockets of time that I can go in there and work on my game.”
Slaughter and her Team USA teammates will participate in a training camp on Aug. 4 before heading to the FIBA Americas U16 Championship which will be on Aug. 16-22 in Santiago, Chile.
“I can’t wait to experience a different culture and travel outside the country,” Slaughter said. “To be able to represent your state on the national team is such an honor. I dreamt of playing on an Olympic type team. I am so excited. I am not only representing the United States and Missouri, I am representing Grain Valley. I am so pumped to go and play against great competition from other countries.”
After a week of tryouts in Indianapolis, it was announced that Grain Valley's Grace Slaughter made the USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team, joining 11 other players including Blue Springs’ Jada Williams. Photo credit: John Overstreet.