Destiny Slocum dominated Idaho high school basketball for four years, and then quickly made a name for herself across the country, earning national freshman of the year honors at Maryland.
The Mountain View High graduate had to sit out last season after transferring to Oregon State. But the NCAA-mandated year off is over, and the dynamic point guard will take the floor with the No. 8-ranked Beavers for the first time Friday in the season opener against Cal Poly.
“It’s been a long time waiting,” Slocum told reporters after Oregon State’s exhibition game Saturday. “It’s just nice to be out there with my team and just be in front of Beaver Nation. That’s what I’ve been waiting for.”
Slocum heads a national powerhouse with the talent to make another deep NCAA Tournament run. Oregon State has reached the Elite Eight two of the past three years, including in March. The Beavers return four starters from that team, and Slocum’s return has made immediate waves in the Pac-12, where she was one of five players voted to the preseason all-conference team.
She was also one of 30 women nationwide selected to the watch list for the John R. Wooden Award, given to the country’s top player.
“I’m so excited to have her,” junior guard Mikayla Pivec told the Albany (Ore.) Democrat-Herald. “She’s a great playmaker, great teammate. I know last year was tough for her but you never saw it by her body language. She was always the first one to pick you up or say ‘good job’ or be an enthusiastic teammate even though I know it probably wasn’t as fun as it could have been for her.”
Slocum graduated from Mountain View High in 2016 as one of the most decorated players in Idaho history. She was twice elected the state’s player of the year, finished her career with two state titles, won a gold medal with the U.S. at the 2015 U-19 FIBA World Championship in Russia, and became the state’s first selection to the McDonald’s All-American All-Star Game.
She wasted no time breaking out at the college level at Maryland, leading the Terps to a Big Ten championship and a Sweet 16 appearance in her first year. She finished her lone season at Maryland averaging 11.5 points and 6.0 assists and as the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Freshman of the Year. But she told the Statesman after the 2017 season that she felt like she never really fit in at Maryland.
“I felt like their values on and off the floor didn’t align with mine,” Slocum said. “To find a place where I could do that and be happy about that and feel like I was connected in that way was really important to me.”
She chose Oregon State from a final three that included UCLA and Arkansas, joining a program that has had four players selected in the WNBA Draft the past three years. She has three years of eligibility left.
“I wanted to find a place where I was just going to be happy,” Slocum told The (Eugene) Register-Guard. “It was awesome to find a university and basketball program that I love so close to home and a successful program at that.”
Slocum paid a price for her transfer, sitting out of all of last season. She could practice with the team daily but couldn’t suit up for games or travel with the Beavers. The always fierce competitor told reporters at Pac-12 media day that she struggled with the transition at first. She then quickly learned a new perspective on the game from a place she’s never been before — the bench.
“I’m just so proud of Destiny for the way she handled last year,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said at the media day. “She made the most of it. That’s a very difficult thing for someone to do.
“But Destiny, from Day One, turned that into a positive. Instead of subbing herself out mentally in every way, she made everybody better every day and was everyone’s biggest fans. It was weird to go on the road and not have her because she such a huge part of our team.”
Slocum has wasted no time showing what she can do at the head of the Beavers’ offense, scoring 13 points and tallying seven assists in a 95-58 exhibition win over Northwest Nazarene last week. The game reunited her with two former club teammates with Hoop Dreams, Nampa High grads Raquel and Danielle Jardine.
She committed eight turnovers as she shook off a year’s worth of rust. But she also showcased the no-look passes that make her a highlight waiting to happen. And with one of the country’s largest front courts at her disposal, it shouldn’t take long for the point guard to get back up to full speed.
“I think it’s every point guard’s dream to look down the line and see 6-7, 6-9 and 6-7 again,” Slocum said at Pac-12 media day. “Wow, this what I get to throw the ball to every time I drive in?”