Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
Slocum adds to UA women's high-powered attack
Oregon State guard Destiny Slocum (24) against Stanford during NCAA college basketball game in Palo Alto, Calif., Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
FAYETTEVILLE — Destiny Slocum already excelled at both Maryland and Oregon State, but she felt Arkansas would be a perfect fit to end her college basketball career.
The standout guard already feels right at home.
“It’s been everything I was told it was gonna be and that I thought it was gonna be,” Slocum said. “It’s been a good transition.”
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors recruited Slocum out of high school when he was at Washington, so she acknowledged they already had a bond. But the running Razorbacks were just what she was looking for.
“His program fits my game the best,” said Slocum, who was a two-time All-Pac 12 selection and was chosen Big Ten Freshman of the Year. “Not only connecting with my teammates, but I feel like their games compliment me so well. Honestly, just the culture here fits my personality and my game the best.”
Arkansas was already set for a nice follow-up to last year’s season that would have surely ended in an NCAA Tournament bid if not for the pandemic. The Razorbacks return four players who started every game a year ago, led by All-Southeastern Conference guard Chelsea Dungee.
She transferred from Oklahoma after her freshman year and has already topped 1,500 points in her career. Senior Amber Ramirez hit 106 3-pointers last season, ranking second in the NCAA. Her 3-point percentage of .447 ranked ninth.
But add to that one of the top transfers in the country with Slocum along with a talented freshman class. Not to mention, senior Jailyn Mason, who started 97 games in her first three seasons, returns after redshirting last year because of an injury.
Neighbors agreed the group was improved from a year ago, despite the graduation of Alex Tolefree, an All-SEC first-team selection.
“Even though Lex had a tremendous senior season, we’re 10 to 15 points better offensively per game than we were last year,” Neighbors said.
Others believe the Razorbacks will be a force as well as they are ranked No. 14 in the country in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll, their highest preseason ranking since 1995.
Dungee and Slocum have also already been noticed individually, too. Dungee, a 5-11 redshirt senior, was named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award preseason watch list as one of the top 20 shooting guards in the country. Slocum, a 5-7 senior grad transfer, was also selected to the Nancy Lieberman Award watch list for the third year.
Defenses have struggled in college football in today’s pandemic world and that could be something that carries over the basketball, Neighbors said.
“Defense is gonna be behind,” Neighbors said. “Defense is a lot of science. Defense takes time. Offense is art.
“When you’re talking about what you’re seeing in football, I think it will be even more impactful in basketball.”
Neighbors said he believes a good offense beats a good defense. It at least gives the Razorbacks a chance against, top-flight competition, Neighbors said.
“South Carolina for example, I don’t think you can get into a defensive struggle with South Carolina and win a game,” Neighbors said. “You have to be able to score at the highest level to beat the best teams.”
Arkansas had one of the top offenses in the country a year ago as well as one of the top 3-point shooting teams. The Razorbacks averaged 83.4 points per game, which ranked third among Division I teams. They also made 9.8 3-pointers per game, which ranked fifth, not to mention third averaging only 11 turnovers per game.
Judging from practice, that hasn’t changed this year either, Neighbors said.
He pointed out one team in a recent intrasquad scrimmage scored 31 points in a quarter and lost by eight.
“That team had a great quarter, scored 31 points and got their butts beat by eight points in 10 minutes,” Neighbors said. “So 70 points scored in a live 10-minute game scrimmage.”
He’s kept Slocum and sophomore Makayla Daniels on separate teams most of the time in practice, but he’s put them together some already with great results.
“When we do, it operates at a really high speed and everybody just flows in behind it,” Neighbors said.
One area Arkansas should be improved in is around the basket with the addition of 6-2 freshman Destinee McGhee, who has already made an impression on Mason.
“She’s a powerhouse,” Mason said. “We call her The Wall … you can’t really get through her.”
“We can throw it inside on the block to Destinee McGhee or Destinee Oberg,” Neighbors said. “If you put four shooters around Oberg or McGhee, then it’s layup city or get to the foul line and they both shoot incredible from the foul line.”
The Razorbacks won’t have the services this season of freshman Elauna Eaton, a five-star recruit from Jonesboro. She suffered a knee injury in early October and has already had surgery, according to a post from her Twitter account.
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