Two worlds collide for Destiny Slocum

Bringing some Corvallis to Fayetteville

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Yesterday’s piece addressed Kylee Shook’s path to becoming a fixture in New York’s frontcourt rotation.

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Destiny Slocum’s arrival at Arkansas as a grad transfer by way of Oregon State will go down as one of the most impactful moves ahead of the start of the 2020-21 season. The stylistic differences between the two programs are fascinating. Arkansas wants to play fast. Oregon State is more about precision. Both will compete at a high level next season. 

Slocum’s decision was important on a national level as we think about 2021 NCAA contenders and her pro prospects. There is no wrong answer here for her. Let’s start there. The top of the Pac-12 and SEC conferences are stacked. Top players get chances to showcase their talents against really good teams. 

The argument for Arkansas as a destination is easy to make. They play fast, spread the floor and hunt early offense. The Razorbacks ranked top-20 nationally in 3-point makes, 3-point attempts, free throws made and free throw attempts in each of the last two seasons. The SEC has the team to beat heading into 2020-21 in South Carolina and the best player in the country in Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard. 

Slocum is one of the fastest guards in the country from end to end. That Arkansas running game will be even more dangerous. When Slocum isn’t leading the break, she’ll punish teams from the perimeter with her outside shooting. She shot 36.8 percent from deep on more than five attempts per game in both seasons in Corvallis. 

Arkansas ran into the Gamecocks three times in 2019-20 and came up empty. There’s no shame in that. But the Razorbacks were one piece short against the very best teams. They needed another threat that can really puncture a defense, especially playing in a league with Aliyah Boston, the best rim protector in the country. Slocum addresses that need. 

The most interesting wrinkle to all of this: despite the differences in style, there’s plenty of Oregon State that Slocum can bring with her to Arkansas. OSU looked completely unstoppable at times with Slocum, three shooters and a big. A January win at UCLA in her sophomore campaign illustrated the kind of impact she can have in a halfcourt setting.

She’s tough to prepare for in pick and roll situations. You don’t want to give her room to pull up but can’t give her lanes to the rim, either. OSU attacked UCLA’s switching to get future pro Kennedy Burke off of Slocum. That left the Bruins more prone to breakdowns. 

Slocum has that effect on opponents. Her game is tailor-made to put defenders in uncomfortable positions. Anyone but the top defender on the other team should have a red mark on their chest. Slocum is too explosive, too quick to keep out of the lane. She’ll draw enough help to set up open 3-pointers when she isn’t getting all the way to the rim.

That’s an area where she really needs to improve. She didn’t consistently put as much pressure on the rim as her brightest highlights suggest. She got to the line between 2.2 and 2.9 times per game in her three college seasons. Harping on the driving is easy because she’s such an electric off-the-bounce shooter. The between the legs pullback is a personal favorite.

She’s a threat off the bounce from beyond the arc, too—a huge weapon to have in the arsenal when the shot clock is winding down. Most players don’t want to end up on that island. 

Ultimately, Slocum’s unpredictability makes her special. Blink and she’ll blow right by you. The pull-up shooting, either in pick and roll or one-on-one will give teams nightmares. She’s at her best picking her spots to break off a set and get in the lane. 

Slocum has a teammate running off a screen on the right side of the floor. But she sensed an opportunity to scoot by Burke. UCLA was exposed in that moment. The two defenders on the other side were tied up with that screening action. Nobody was home to drop down and help the helper. 

Slocum will need to find a new level to lead her new team to a deep NCAA Tournament run and bolster her draft stock. Arkansas is a good place to do that. But it’s early. Hundreds of names are still in the transfer portal. Will all transfers be granted immediate eligibility next season? 

Arkansas will be extremely fun to watch next season regardless of what happens elsewhere with Slocum and Mike Neighbors finally united. They’ll be incredibly dynamic in transition. But games against the best teams will always come down to what you can do in the halfcourt. What Slocum learned and did at OSU may have laid the groundwork for what she hopes to accomplish in her lone season with the Razorbacks. 

How good will Arkansas be in 2020-21? Who will be the top challenger to South Carolina in the SEC? And what kind of player will Slocum be at the next level? Sound off below. Let’s keep the conversation going.

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