Grain Valley resident Grace Slaughter has made a name for herself in the youth basketball world, and she hasn’t even entered high school yet.
The talented guard/forward, who plays for the Missouri Phenom 14-and-under team, got an invitation to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last May to compete for a spot on the women’s under-16 national team.
Although she did not make the national team, Slaughter said it was an experience of a lifetime playing with some of the best girls basketball players in the nation.
“I feel really blessed just to get accepted to go there,” said Slaughter, who will be a freshman at Grain Valley High School this fall. “It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. They pushed me in strength and quickness and there’s also a lot of talking going on, so a lot of leadership. The coaches there helped me become a better player.
“They had us go through drills but mostly had us play in scrimmages. And they evaluated us while we were there.”
Going to the U-16 national team trials was just the beginning for Slaughter, as she could give the Eagles a big boost for the winter basketball season. Later this month, she will be competing in the Junior NBA Global Tournament in Florida for the Under-14 Central Region team.
The players selected were all in the class of 2023 and were in the Phenom program. Her team won a regional tournament to advance to the Junior NBA Tournament, in which eight regional U.S. teams and eight global teams from other countries will compete.
“It’s exciting,” Slaughter said. “It’s motivating me to work hard. It pushes me and makes me want to work every day.”
Slaughter will be able to showcase her talents there as a 6-foot-1 guard-forward. She said she’s versatile enough that she’s able to post up and score in the paint against smaller players. She also said she is quick off the dribble, which allows her to drive past players who are taller than her.
She’ll also get to play with another up-and-coming freshman who’s made a name for herself in youth basketball – Jada Williams, who will play for Blue Springs High School next winter. Slaughter has played against Williams during the middle school season and has also played with her on the Phenom club team.
“I love playing against her and with her,” Slaughter said of Williams. “She can push me as a player when I play against her. I also love playing with her because she’s a great player. There’s so many things that she can do and it would help me either way.”
Slaughter has admitted to having dreams of playing in the WNBA one day, but said she’s focused on playing for the Eagles next season and working on landing with a college team in the future.
“If God leans me toward that, that would be awesome because I love basketball,” Slaughter said of possibly playing in the WNBA in the future. “If something else comes up, I will just go with that plan.”