Destiny Slocum was crammed in a van on her way to the airport with her Hoop Dreams girls basketball teammates when she got the call of a lifetime.
Both team vans pulled over on the side of a Las Vegas road, and her teammates pressed in close to listen. Tears filled Slocum’s eyes as the voice on the other line told her she had been called up to join Team USA at the 2015 FIBA U-19 World Championship in Chekhov, Russia.
“It was kind of crazy, because I didn’t think this was going to happen,” Slocum told USA Basketball.com. “The first alternate had already been picked up and to have a second one is pretty rare. I just started crying when I heard; I was so excited.
“I think it’s everything, it’s the honor you always want to have. You want to do something for your county and (as an athlete) this is the No. 1 thing you want to do.”
Slocum is believed to be the third Idahoan to represent the U.S. women’s national team. Moscow High’s Andrea Lloyd won a gold medal in 1988, and Meridian High’s Tresa Hamson (then Spaulding) participated as an alternate for Team USA at the 1984 Olympics.
The 17-year-old Mountain View High senior-to-be was invited to a tryout with the U.S. national team in May, and left the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., as an alternate for the 12-player roster.
“Someone had joked with her that no one ever makes (the team) on the first try,” said Jon Slocum, Destiny’s dad. “She came back a little disappointed, but determined to work that much harder.”
After Connecticut signee Katie Lou Samuelson had to leave the team this week due to a family illness, Slocum’s number was called.
Slocum, a 5-foot-7 guard, left Boise on Friday morning bound for Russia. She is scheduled to arrive in Chekhov just four hours before the team’s opening game against Spain (11:15 a.m. MT Saturday). Games will be streamed live at YouTube.com/FIBA.
The tournament continues through July 26.
“It’s disappointing that we won’t have Katie Lou on our trip, someone who has so much USA Basketball international experience winning gold medals,” said USA U-19 and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley in a USA Basketball press release. “You can’t really substitute someone who’s been through it at the U-16 level, U-17 level, 3x3. She is a seasoned vet and it’s going to be hard to replace someone like her.
“But Destiny is willing to come in and help us challenge for a gold medal. It’ll be her first stint with USA Basketball, but she’s the type of player who is always in attack mode on both sides of the ball. So, what we lose in Katie Lou’s experience and her ability to stretch the floor, we gain with someone like Destiny who is able to shoot it from the outside.
“She’s got great court vision and she doesn’t mind playing defense on the other side of the ball. We look forward to getting her up to speed and her helping us win a gold medal in Russia.”
Slocum is one of just three players on the U.S. roster with one year of high school ball remaining. The other nine will be freshmen or sophomores in college — all at top-ranked Division I programs.
Slocum initially made a verbal commitment in October to play for Washington, but re-opened her recruiting in April. She led Mountain View to its first 5A state championship in February, averaging 25.1 points, 5.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 steals. She was voted the Idaho Statesman’s 5A All-Idaho Player of the Year and the Gatorade Idaho Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“That was the whole reason she re-opened her recruiting is because I don’t even think she understood where she was at,” Jon Slocum said. “She told me (Thursday) night that it’s tough for her to see herself the way others view her. And I said I know, because you’re still the girl I can’t get to clean her room.”