On the road again: Grain Valley’s Slaughter stays busy with AAU ball this summer

Bill Althaus
Grain Valley sophomore Grace Slaughter (33) battles for position in a game in the AAU Tournament of Champions last week in Des Moines, Iowa. Slaughter's 16U Phenom team went 6-1 in the tournament, including a win that included Blue Springs' Jada Williams.

If anyone has any questions about a great place to eat or stay in Des Moines, you might want to ask Grain Valley sophomore Grace Slaughter or her mom, Becky.

The duo have spent more time in Iowa’s capital city than their own home in Grain Valley, as Grace has played in four AAU basketball tournaments in Iowa in the past four weeks.

“Five days in Iowa, two home; five days in Iowa, two home – you get the picture?” Grace said with a laugh. “We usually have an early morning game, so we leave the day before, spend four days playing and then come home.

“This last tournament we played two games on Thursday, two on Friday, two on Saturday and one Sunday.”

And her 16U Phenom team finished 6-1 in the Tournament of Champions.

“My mom and I really love it,” she added. “It’s only about a three-hour drive and we listen to music and talk and have a great time.”

Grace’s father, Brian, is working on COVID-19 research at the Stowers Institute and cannot leave the state, so he stays home with Grace’s younger sister Olivia and watches her softball games.

“I love it when our whole family can go,” Grace said, “but it’s great to have a mom who can drive me all the tournaments. And she loves watching as much as I love playing.”

Becky agrees and is happy to have the time to do it.

“I work for the (Grain Valley) school district so my summers are free and earlier this summer I took Olivia to a softball tournament in Oklahoma, and now that Grace is playing all her tournaments in Iowa, we have the routine down,” Becky said. “We have our favorite places to visit, our favorite restaurants and, of course, all Grace’s games.

“We have a little routine we do before each game, some special mother-daughter time. I love it – although we both wish Brian and Olivia could be with us.”

Slaughter is coming off a strong freshman season in which she was named Class 4 all-state and The Examiner Co-Girls Basketball Player of the Year after averaging 24.3 points per game and setting the Grain Valley single season scoring record.

Slaughter shared the Player of the Year honor with Blue Springs freshman Jada Williams, who was her teammate for one memorable game in Iowa this past weekend.

“We lost two or three girls to injuries at our last tournament,” Grace said, “and Jada plays for the 17U Phenom team, so she came down and played a game with our team. It was so much fun. She’s usually an opponent, and I love playing against her because she just brings out the best in me, but I love it even more when we are teammates. We got down early in that game and came back and won and it was a blast.’

Slaughter and her Grain Valley teammates wrapped up an early morning practice session Tuesday and Eagles coach Randy Draper quipped, “That girl has played a lot of basketball this month.”

“And that’s why she keeps getting better and better and better,” Draper added of Slaughter, who has already verbally committed to the University of Missouri. “She is so talented, and she can do so many things, but she continues to add to her game. I know she’s going to be better this season than she was last season – and that’s a scary thought.”

The 6-foot-2 guard said she meshes what she learns from her AAU coaches with what she has learned from Draper and the Eagles coaching staff.

“All my coaches want me to work to get better,” Grace said. “In AAU games I can work on my post play, which I also do in high school.

“I really want to improve my defense, and I work on my leadership skills, too. I want to be a complete player and by playing, and practicing as much as I do, I feel like I’m getting better every day.”