by John Unrein
One hundred and three miles separate Grain Valley from Columbia, Missouri. Interstate 70 that sits between the them has and will be a familiar jaunt for the newest and only current University of Missouri Women’s Basketball recruit for the Class of 2023, Grace Slaughter.
Slaughter helped lead the Lady Eagles Basketball team to the Class 4, District 14 Championship as a Freshman. Her stat line for her rookie campaign was equally as impressive with 23.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. The varsity stage was not too big for Slaughter and that led her to receive NCAA Division I Basketball recruiting attention as a Freshman.
Twitter was the format used by Slaughter to unveil her commitment to Mizzou.
“First off, I want to thank everyone who has helped me get to this point. My parents and sister, Olivia, who are my biggest fans and push me to be the best basketball player I can be and version of myself,” Slaughter said.
“Coach Greg, Reggie, Jordan, Nick, Draper, and Taber for coaching me, and helping me become a better teammate and person as well. And God who has blessed me with this opportunity and the gift of basketball, which is my way of spreading his word. It has been a lot of fun and hard work to get to this point, but there is so much more work to be done.”
“God has opened this door and it is time for me to step through it. With that being said, I am so happy to announce I am committed to the University of Missouri!”
Slaughter made her phone call to Coach Pingeton, who heads the University of Missouri Women’s Basketball program with her grandparents at her side, and went to her sister’s softball game before heading to Habanero’s to celebrate afterwards for good measure.
“I was raised loving Mizzou and watching their basketball and football games. Being recruited was amazing. Mizzou has developed a good relationship with me along the way. Coach P (Pingeton) is just not there to teach you basketball, but life skills and women’s leadership as well,” Slaughter said.
“I’m definitely excited and have prayed about it (her commitment) the last few weeks and I don’t want to continue talking to other coaches if I want to wear the black and gold of Mizzou.
Slaughter is confident in her choice as well as relieved in that she can turn her full attention back to training and conditioning for high school basketball. A sense of normalcy returning for Slaughter is something she also longs for as well.
With gyms and parks being closed during quarantine, Slaughter turned to her neighbor’s barn that has a cement floor and two basketball goals along with a three point line to get her basketball fix in the past months.
“Getting back on the court and seeing my teammates will be a welcome sight. I haven’t been able to see the girls for too long. Attending church and socializing is something I also look forward to as well,” Slaughter said.
Mizzou’s campus in Columbia will be three years away for Slaughter. However, Pingeton has been there since 2010 and continues to build positive things with her program. In her eleven seasons at Mizzou, Pingeton has led the Tigers to seven postseason births, including four appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The 2019-20 season saw the emergence of Freshman Aijha Blackwell and Hayley Frank who each earned All-SEC Team honors.
The University of Missouri Women’s Basketball website reveals Blackwell and Frank became the first duo in program history to average double figure scoring outputs in the same season. The pair backed up their five-star, top-30 national rankings and proved to be pieces to build around for the future of the program.
For now, Slaughter will be surrounded by her own solid supporting cast. Lady Eagles Head Coach Randy Draper will return eight players from last season’s roster, including six of which who were Freshman. Basketball fans in Grain Valley have a lot to look forward to.