Monday, October 31, 2016

Sloan Finds Escape Route To TCA

David Sloan's world was enveloped by uncertainty.

He had waited, waited, waited...waited for an answer. Waited for a solution to all the unknown, praying for answer that would calm itching nerves and eventually put his mind at ease.

Yet for a brief period, a maddening episode that the 5-foot-11, 170-pound combo vows to quickly forget, there was no concrete answer in sight.

A dreadful fear of the unknown was gnawing at him. He was facing the prospect of not having a permanent hardwood home for his senior year. His future and basketball livelihood hung in the balance.

A Top 150 recruit, once with offers from Louisville, Missouri, and Memphis on the table, Sloan had initially transferred out of Taylor County. Following a three-year career there, he became a 1000+ point scorer and once hit 10 treys in a game, the Class of 2017 guard opted to transfer to Ballard High School.

After living with his coach and guardian Richard Gatewood, Sloan expressed a desire to play before his hometown for his senior year. He also wanted to move back in with his parents and relish the opportunity of playing in front of his family more.

Immediately upon finding that his address did not match a Ballard address, he was ruled ineligible by the Kentucky High School Association. The general consensus was that Sloan did not live in the district and therefore should not be eligible to play at Ballard.

It suddenly became rumored that Sloan was recruited to play at Ballard. He was expected to receive a hardship waiver so he could enroll at the school, which is one hour and 20 minutes from Taylor County and about 10 minutes from Sloan's Louisville home.

On the court, Sloan is laced with unbridled confidence. It's evident by the way he pulls up from way beyond the arc without a hint of hesitation. It's evident from the ease in which he knifes through defenses, finishing at the rim with either hand. It's evident through elite handle, which allowed him to constantly play up a level since grade school.

Yet for the first time in his life, Sloan felt nervous.

He was unsure of what was next. His relationship with Gatewood, his coach since he was an eighth grader playing varsity at Moore, also took a hit at the time. Gatewood has since moved on to take the head coaching job at 22 Feet Academy in South Carolina.

It was more pressure than most teenagers--or most playing at the amateur level, without the high stakes of money and business involved--should be accustomed to.

"I thought I wasn't going to be able to play my senior year period," said Sloan, who averaged 20 points and 4.4 boards in piloting Taylor County to a 25-9 record and a second straight berth in the state quarterfinals.

"God opened doors for me to play. I took advantage of it. All I can do is thank God for it. At times I didn't think I was going to be able to play. I thought about it. I was like, 'they can't really rule a kid ineligible and tell him he can't play basketball. They can't do that. I just chose other options and went the prep school route."

Sloan jumped at the prep school route, opting to attend The Conrad Academy in Orlando. The frustration is in the rearview mirror, as Sloan prepares for the season-opener at Downey Christian next week.

"I guess the reason they didn't rule me eligible (for Ballard) was because I didn't live in the district," Sloan said. "It was either that or they felt that I was being recruited. The only way I think I would have been eligible was if I moved into that particular district for the school. I didn't want to just end up at any school for my senior year, I wanted to play close to home. But, I'm here now and I've moved on."

Senior Standout

As an elder statesmen with a wealth of varsity experience, Sloan will lead by example at Conrad Academy. Though he won't have the opportunity to earn Kentucky's Mr. Basketball, an award he was certainly a favorite for, he will navigate a demanding national schedule.

Playing alongside high-major target Luguentz Dort and forming a thorough inside-outside game with Auburn-commit Austin Wiley, Sloan will be entrusted to operate the offense. After constantly playing the role of score-first guard, Sloan will be shoulder the facilitator role.

"Leading the team, I think that's the key for me this year," Sloan said. "It's going to be more of a competition on the prep school route and it's going to get me ready for college. There's going to be a lot of high-end guys and the competition is maximized. There might be some easy layups or floaters that I can pull off in Kentucky that I can't here because of the increased competition and because of the fact that you are going up against 6-foot-10 and 7-foot guys every night in this league."

Adding bulk to a once leafy frame is integral in improving Sloan's Division-I profile. He's been working relentlessly in that department, lifting more and attending speed & agility classes three to four times a week.

"David is continuing to progress as a Division-I athlete," explained Conrad Academy coach/director of player development Brad Traina, who starred as a high-scoring guard at UCF in the 1990s and played professionally overseas for 12 seasons.

"Fundamentally, he has always had Division-I talent with his dribbling ability and passing in particular. He has really bought into the weight room and continues to get stronger and more explosive. He also has focused a lot on improving his shooting."

Strength and explosiveness are two compartments of his game Sloan is committed to. Mastering both of these aspects will help him progress from a mid-major prospect to a viable high-major.

Thrive On Adversity

Being an undersized guard only made Sloan work harder. Throughout his career, he's constantly played with a sense of aggressiveness and desire to outwork the competition.

The past few months have gauged his adversity while simultaneously testing his mental moxie. While being ruled ineligible left him in a state of confusion and uncertainty, several programs rescinded their offers. Once sifting through offers from Louisville and Memphis and earning interest from Florida and Tennessee, Sloane is currently a mid-major recruit.

"It is a combination of some kids committing before me and some schools not knowing whether or not I was going to play my senior year," Sloan said.

Rather than letting the frustration or adversity overwhelm him, Sloan has channeled it into motivation. There's no question, he'll be playing to make a statement this season.

"I just it as motivation for me," Sloan said. "When we do ab workouts or when we're going to the weight room or when I'm getting into the gym before practice, I'm using it all as motivation to just get better and continue to outwork the rest. If I have time on my hands, I'll just grab a pair of weights and start lifting and put myself through a workout."

Sloan credits a lot of his evolution as a player to his time under Gatewood, the coach who gave him a tremendous green light since he was a spindly 5-foot-8 freshman.

"I had a really good relationship with coach Gatewood, we kind of went our different ways at the end, but I still have a lot of respect for him regardless," Sloan said. "I know he was kind of frustrated with my decision to leave (Taylor County). In June of that year, he got the job at 22 Feet. So he kind of went on with his life and I went on with mine. I heard that he's doing great things at 22 Feet Academy and I'm not surprised."