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Destiny Slocum: The Hero We Needed

But the hero some don’t deserve.

High School Sports: American Family High School Slam and 3-Point Championship Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

I want to take a moment and acknowledge Slocum and her contributions this year. You could argue that this is still very much Mikayla Pivec’s team, and that Aleah Goodman has taken over games to lead the Beavers as well, but Slocum is exactly what Oregon State needed this year to come this far.

And in regards to the subhead, don’t worry. There’s only a small contingent of fans I want to call out, but I’ll get to that later.

With the upcoming NCAA tournament game against Boise State on our minds, it’s worth taking a moment to think about how we got here.

This marks sixth straight year that the Beavers Women’s Basketball Team has made the NCAA Tournament. Three years ago this team was in the Final Four, just two wins from a national title. For four years the point guard position was anchored by Sydney Wiese, and after she graduated and moved onto play professionally, that left a serious void. Last year, Scott Rueck used a combination of Mikayla Pivec, Katie McWilliams, and Aleah Goodman, and while it got the job done enough to get this team to the Elite Eight, it left you wondering how much further they could have gone with true point guard.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Lexington Regional-Oregon State vs Louisville
MIkayla Pivec took over most of the point guard duties in the 2017-18 season, but whoever handled the point was often pressured.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Though the Beavers played without a solid anchor at the point guard position, they still shared the ball amazingly well, finishing seventh in the country with 18.8 assists per game. What got them into trouble was when athletic teams would press the Beavers and force turnovers. They were desperately missing someone who could handle pressure, dribble themselves out of sticky situations, and make teams respect it. Enter Slocum.

After a successful freshman year at the University of Maryland where she garnered national honors, Destiny Slocum transferred back to her home side of the country and became the starting point guard of the Oregon State Beavers. Remember Slocum’s debut games against Cal Poly and Arkansas Pine-Bluff? After seeing her chip in 19 assists in those first two games, if you didn’t know it already, Slocum was going to be special for this team.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Connecticut at Maryland
While at Maryland, Destiny Slocum was crowned WBCA National Freshman of the Year for the 2016-17 season.
Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

While we are accustomed to Beaver teams sharing the rock regularly and usually nearing the top in the league for assists, Slocum showed the handles of a true point guard that we hadn’t seen. At times, it seemed like even the Beaver players were amazed as unsuspecting passes came there way as the Meridian, Idaho native looked the other direction. What also we became accustomed to from last year was the dread that came against playing teams that would play full-court press and force hair-pulling turnovers.

At one point during an non-conference home game, the Beaver offense stalled and no one could get open, leaving Slocum to dribble away from pressure in the backcourt with shot-clock seconds ticking down. After this ended with a couple of poor offensive possessions, a small contingent of cranky fans stood and yelled “PASS THE BALL!” I might be ageist, but they obviously had some memory issues. Last year, this team would have coughed up the ball and gave the opposing team some fastbreak points. Slocum’s ability to keep plays alive at least gave them a chance.

Then there was her shooting. In her first three games, she went 9-of-18 from behind the arc, showing that she would fit perfectly with Oregon State’s reputation of fielding deadly three-point shooters. Even though she has cooled on the accuracy, she still makes a respectable 38% from distance.

In a string of 14 games, starting with a home visit against Washington, Slocum put the team squarely on her back, averaging nearly 20 points per game. That scoring run included nine games of at least 20 points by the 5’7’’ guard. In one of those games against Utah, the Utes jumped out to a nine point lead while the Beavers struggled, missing nine of their first 10 shots. In a game that likely would have saw previous Beaver teams wilt, Slocum willed the team back into that game with 18 of Oregon State’s 28 first half points to tie it up at halftime.

But you know what moment from we’ll remember most from Slocum in that 14 game stretch? The dagger that clinched the last game over an upset-minded USC team that started with a 16-0 lead.

The ability to carry the team on an off night doesn’t make her special to this team though. As shown in other games, Pivec and Goodman have that ability as well. What makes Slocum special is that she make EVERYONE better on any night. As a natural point guard, she is able to find the right people at the right time, setting them up to be successful. Her addition makes this team capable to go farther than it has ever been, and she still has another two years to play. So if doesn’t happen this year, there is an off-season where people can recharge, get healthy, and have another go at it. But after all that has happened this year, to this team, they would not be hosting Tournament games without her contributions.

Destiny Slocum is pretty much what the doctor ordered for this Oregon State team. It’s interesting that the first team she’ll face in the NCAA Tournament as a Beaver will be the team she literally grew up next to in Meridian, Idaho, the Boise State Broncos. I know we all wished that she could have played last year when (what we thought was) a rebuilding Beaver team—that was quite turnover prone—surprised us with an Elite Eight run. But the timing of her debut this season was worth the wait.