The future has never looked brighter for Grain Valley freshman Grace Slaughter.
She was the second-leading scorer in the metro area with a 23.4 point-per-game average while collecting 4.6 rebounds and dishing out 1.9 assists while earning all-state honors and being named The Examiner’s 2019-20 Co-Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Before her first season with the Eagles, she starred for her U.S. Central Region 14-under team that went 7-0 and won the 2019 Jr. NBA Global Championship in Orlando, Fla., beating Canada 72-35 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complete at Disney World Resort.
"I still don’t believe it," said Slaughter, who scored eight points and had 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."
That type of passion, talent and humility make Slaughter a special player, one who immediately caught the eye of University of Missouri head women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton.
Slaughter’s KC Phenoms coach set up a Zoom meeting between the freshman sensation and Pingeton Saturday, and the Grain Valley standout made a verbal commitment to play basketball for the Tigers. Slaughter later announced it on Twitter.
"We set up the Zoom meeting and I wrote a little speech about all the reasons why I wanted to be a member of the Tigers basketball team," said Slaughter, who was All-Suburban Small Seven, all-district and a member of the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 4 all-state team. "As I read the speech I got real emotional and before long, we were all crying.
"It was just an amazing moment. I just finished my freshman year and I’m verbally committed to my dream school. It’s just unbelievable the way things have happened for me.
"I had a great individual season and we had a great season as a team. I love the girls I play with and of course I love playing for Coach (Randy) Draper and Coach (Pete) Carpino."
Slaughter said she is happy she can now focus on the final three seasons of her high school career before heading to Columbia.
"This will take so much pressure off me because some other schools were talking to me, but Missouri was the only school I was interested in," Slaughter said. "My whole life, my family and I have watched Missouri sports, and now I’m going to be a part of it in three years."
While some athletes grab the golden ring and slide through the rest of their prep career, Slaughter is taking this commitment as a new challenge.
After all, she broke Laura Reeves’ 18-year single-season scoring record of 576 points when she scored 22 in a 52-28 Class 4 District 14 win over Oak Grove that gave her 579 points. She finished the season with more than 600 points.
"I don’t know if I can work any harder than I have been, but I’m going to work so hard to prove that I belong on a great Division I team and that I can help our high school team achieve great things," Slaughter said.
"We came up short in the quarterfinals last season (losing 63-45 to Lincoln Prep in a game in which Slaughter was the leading scorer with 24 points) and I’ve told Coach Draper that we’re going to do all we can to go to three final fours the next three years – that’s our only goal, to get to the final four. And I think we can do it three times if we all play together like we did last year."
Slaughter and her Phenom teammates are actually beginning to play some games this summer as they will travel to Iowa and New Orleans.
"It’s been so weird with the closings and the coronavirus, but some things are beginning to open and I can’t wait to get back in the gym with my teammates and start practicing and playing some basketball."