Someday this week, maybe as they attend their first day of school as freshmen at Blue Springs and Grain Valley high schools, area phenoms Jada Williams and Grace Slaughter are going to realize that they are national champions.
They starred in last week’s 2019 Jr. NBA Global Championship in Orlando, Florida, where their U.S. Central Region under-14 team went 7-0 and won the global championship by beating Canada 72-35 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort.
“I definitely don’t believe it all happened, it just seems like a dream – a dream that has come true,” said Williams, a freshman at Blue Springs High School who scored 11 points and added four assists in the championship win over Canada.
“I still don’t believe it,” said Slaughter, a Grain Valley freshman who added eight points along with four rebounds. “We just clicked as a team. We only had a couple of practices, but I felt like I’d played with the girls all summer.”
Central Region coach Nick Bradford, who coached many of the girls on his Kansas City Phenoms team, said his squad rose to the occasion.
“Our teams play at a very high level, and you could not ask more from a team than we got from this at the tournament,” Bradford said.
Bradford said that Williams – who like Slaughter is already drawing attention from several big Division I college programs – is like a coach on the court, as she knows exactly how to get the most from her teammates.
“I learned that from my mother,” Williams said. “Some girls you can yell at, and they respond. Others, you have to encourage, and they respond to that. Our team at the nationals was amazing. We all had one goal, and that was to win the national championship, and we were able to do that.”
Slaughter said she sensed something special after just one practice with her new teammates.
“After one practice, we were a team, and we played like a team at the tournament,” Slaughter said. “Jada is a great leader and it was so much fun to play with her instead of playing against her.”
Added Williams: “Grace and I are good friends and we have played against each other for a lot of years, and one thing that made this championship so special is that she and I were teammates. She’s a great person and a great teammate.”
After defeating some of the top 13- and 14-year-old girls teams from around the world, the duo is ready to settle into high school and start their prep basketball careers later this year.
“Now, it’s back to the real world, and I’m kind of worried about finding all my classes the first day of school,” Slaughter said with a laugh. “But at least I’ll have some good stories when my new classmates ask me what I did this summer.”
Williams will also have some great stories from her championship summer.
“Now, it’s time to think about school, making good grades and getting ready to help the Wildcats win a lot of games,” Williams said, “and I’m really looking forward to those challenges.”