A pair of local girls basketball players were already drawing national attention before last week’s 2019 Jr. NBA Global Championship in Orlando, Florida.
Now Jada Williams and Grace Slaughter have earned more attention after helping lead the under-14 U.S. Central Region team to the title with a 72-35 rout of Canada in the championship game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort.
Williams, who will be a freshman at Blue Springs High School this fall, scored 11 points and added four assists and Slaughter, a Grain Valley freshman this fall, added eight points along with four rebounds as the Central team finished the week with a perfect 7-0 record.
“These girls are phenomenal,” Central coach Nick Bradford said Monday. “Jada and Grace are amazing young women – and I’m talking about them as young women, and not young basketball players.
“Each of them have 4.0 GPAs and come from wonderful families. We believe in a team concept and they certainly buy into that.”
Bradford said that each of the Eastern Jackson County standouts have already been offered Division I scholarships and are drawing serious attention from some of the top college teams in the nation.
“Jada has been on the radar for quite a while, and after what she did at Orlando, Grace is getting a lot of attention,” Bradford said. “Grace just burst on the scene in Orlando and she does so many things. They were just an unbeatable combo, along with all their teammates.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, three-time NBA champion and Jr. NBA Global Championship ambassador Dwyane Wade and New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations/team development and former WNBA all-star Swin Cash presented the winning teams with trophies in ceremonies following the final that was televised nationally by the Fox network.
“The whole weekend was like a dream come true,” Slaughter said by phone, as she and her family were still in Orlando. “It’s a weekend I will never forget.”
The Jr. NBA Global Championship tournament, which concluded Sunday, featured 32 of the top 13- and 14-year-old girls teams from around the world.
Overall, 15,000 players from 75 countries participated across Jr. NBA Global Championship regional competitions.
The Central team won its second consecutive championship, although Williams and Slaughter were not a part of the previous championship team. The Central squad defeated the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and West teams to win the American division and advance to the Global final against the international champion, Canada.
While Williams and Slaughter were winning a global championship, Great American Gymnastics Express standouts Kara Eaker, Leanne Wong and Aleah Finnegan were starring at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Eaker, a Grain Valley High School student like Eaker, and Wong earned spots on the women’s national championship team while Finnegan won individual medals. They train at GAGE in Blue Springs.
“It’s going to be quite an opening day of school in Grain Valley with Grace playing on the championship basketball team and Kara making the national gymnastics team,” Grain Valley activities director Brandon Hart said.
“We’re proud of all the girls from Eastern Jackson County.”