2020-21 Girls Basketball Player of the Year: Grain Valley's Grace Slaughter commits to more hard work
Rarely does a middle school basketball player live up to all the hype that follows them to high school.
Grain Valley High School sophomore Grace Slaughter has not only lived up to the hype, she has exceeded it.
After sharing The Examiner's 2019-2020 Girls Basketball Player of the Year award with fellow freshman Jada Williams of Blue Springs, the votes of area coaches made Slaughter a solo winner in 2020-21 – giving her the unique opportunity of being the only four-time winner of the postseason honor in the long history of the award.
"I'll tell you something," Eagles coach Randy Draper said of his prize 6-foot-2 sophomore guard, who has already committed to Missouri, "Grace never plays for herself or for postseason awards or recognition. But after winning this for the second time, I can promise you that right now she is working hard, and working to make herself an even better and stronger player next year.
"And to think of Grace as better and stronger is kind of scary."
Slaughter led the metro area by averaging 27.3 points per game. She surpassed 1,000 career points in just her second prep season, finished with 545 points and averaged 7.1 rebounds per game, 2.3 steals and 1.8 assists per game. She shot 81% from the free throw line, 33% from beyond the 3-point line and 49.3% from the field overall.
She owns the Grain Valley single-game scoring mark with a 45-point effort against Raytown, and she was also all-conference, all-district and Class 6 all-state.
"I think she deserves this award," Draper said. "She is one of those rare players who make everyone else on the court that much better. She is goal-oriented – team goal-oriented – and we've had some conversations, that I won't reveal right now, about how she is working on her weaknesses.
"Now here's a player who leads the area in scoring, has won just about every honor you can win, and she's talking about working on her weaknesses."
Many wondered why Draper, who has retired as a teacher, didn't hang up the whistle and clipboard when former Examiner Player of the Year Claire Rose and Kendyll Bailey graduated a few years ago.
"I knew what a special player Grace could be, and she is special," Draper said. "Do you realize that in two years, she is going to be playing SEC (Southeastern Conference) basketball at Mizzou? She has to get stronger to play in that conference.
"Well, you can't believe how much stronger she is now than she was when she was an eighth-grader, coming to high school. It's human nature to be satisfied, but I don't know if she will ever be satisfied. She's on a journey, and, man, am I happy to be along for the ride."
Slaughter was not immediately available to talk about her most recent honor.
"She just got home from the gym," said her mother, Becky, who spends hours rebounding, shooting and traveling around the country with her daughter's AAU team. "Let me get her – she's been shooting."
And shooting, and shooting, and shooting – 10,000 shots a week.
"I can't believe I won this award," said Slaughter, who really seemed surprised by the follow-up award. "There are so many great players in the area – Jacque (David, an all-state center at Chrisman), who's a senior, and Jada, who is just the best. I love both of those girls so much, and there are so many great players.
"This is really an honor and I'm going to keep working hard to live up to it."
When asked about Draper's comment about the SEC, Slaughter chuckled.
"Oh my gosh," she said, "my mom and I were just talking about that the other day. I remember when I was in seventh grade and my mom told me I had to get stronger to play in high school. She said, 'It's just 12 months before eighth grade and two years before high school,' and I worked hard.
"And Claire was an (assistant) coach for our team last season and she'd point to the weight room – and I'd point to the gym. I liked shooting and working on my overall game more than hitting the gym, but I'm in the gym this summer and will be working in the gym a lot because I know I have to get stronger."
She doesn't want to let anything slip about this summer's work regimen, but said, "Coach (Draper) and I talk all the time. He's excited about my offseason and so am I. I want to come back even stronger and with a better skill set my junior year.”
2020-21 Examiner All-Area Girls Basketball
• Elauni Bennett, Lee's Summit North, 5-8, soph., F — Averaged 16.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.5 steals; shot 40.7% from field, 23.1% from 3-point range, 50.5% from FT line; All-Suburban Big Eight; all-district.
• Jacque David, William Chrisman, 5-9, sr., F — Averaged 13.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals; shot 54.3% from field, 29.2% from 3-point range, 50% from free throw line; All-Suburban Middle Seven; all-district; MBCA Class 5 All-State; comm.
• Audrey Maglich, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic, 5-7, sr., PG — Averaged 10.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 3.2 steals; shot 36% from field, 56% from free throw line; all-district; MBCA Class 4 All-State.
• Jaidynn Mason, Blue Springs South, 5-7, soph., SG — Averaged 16 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.9 steals; shot 46.1% from field, 34.5% from 3-point range, 63.4% from FT line; All-Suburban Big Eight; all-district.
• Grace Slaughter, Grain Valley, 6-2, soph., G — Averaged 27.3 points (led metro area), 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.3 steals; shot 49.3% from field, 33.1% from 3-point range, 81% from free throw line; All-Suburban Middle Six; all-district; MBCA Class 6 all-state; verbal commitment to Missouri; 2020-21 Examiner Player of the Year.
• Amanda Szopinski, William Chrisman, 5-7, sr., PG — Averaged 8.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals, led metro area with 2.32 assist-to-turnover ratio; shot 41% from field, 26.3% from 3-point range, 72.9% from free throw line; All-Suburban Middle Six; all-district; signed with Missouri Valley College.
• Jada Williams, Blue Springs, 5-7, soph., G — Averaged 19.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.2 steals; shot 40.4% from field, 30.7% from 3-point range, 80% from free throw line; All-Suburban Big Eight; all-district; MBCA Class 6 all-state; verbal commitment to UCLA.
• Emani Bennett, Lee's Summit North, 5-9, fresh., G
• Saneea Bevley, Blue Springs South, 5-6, jr., G
• Ja'Cole Johnson, Blue Springs, 5-5, jr., G
• Gia Moore, William Chrisman, 5-8, sr., G
• Clare Scheier, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic, 6-1, sr., C
• Victoria Swingle, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic, 5-7, soph., G
• Lexi Robinson, Van Horn, 5-3, sr., G
• Emari Smith, Van Horn, 5-10, fresh., F
• Taliyah Scott, Truman, 5-7, soph., G
• Destiny Valentine, Oak Grove, 5-11, sr., F
Blue Springs South: Kendall Puryear, 6-0, fresh., F; Tiyani Rollins, 5-5, jr., G; Hannah Smith, 5-6, sr., G; Fort Osage: Brooklynn Gilpin, 5-7, sr., G; Katelyn Ward, 5-7, sr., G; Grain Valley: Gabbi Keim, 5-8, sr., F; Finley LaForge, 5-9, fresh., G; Lee’s Summit North: Lauren Draney, 5-9, sr., F; Oak Grove: Makenna Gray, 5-9, jr., F; Truman: Layla Scott, 5-5, fresh., G; Urya' Williams, 5-7, soph., G; William Chrisman: Jolee Spinks, 5-7, sr., F; Mele Taula, 5-9, soph., F.