Michelle Smith WBB Feature: Slocum and Oregon State have proven a good fit
When Oregon State coach Scott Rueck talked to Destiny Slocum for the first time, he did not know her at all.
When Rueck coached Slocum for the first time last season, he knew her mostly as somebody else.
When Rueck saw Slocum take the court for the Beavers this season, he knew exactly who and what he had. A star player in the black-and-orange mold of Ruth Hamblin, Jamie Weisner, Syndey Wiese and Marie Gulich.
“She’s impacting everything we do,” Rueck said of his redshirt sophomore point guard. “She has the ability to create better than anyone I’ve coached. She absolutely sets the tone for our team.”
Slocum paces an Oregon State team coming off its biggest win of the season, Monday’s nationally televised upset of Oregon in Corvallis. Slocum scored 20 points against the Ducks in the win, and leads the Beavers in scoring and assists heading into the weekend home games against UCLA and USC that will keep OSU in the thick of the hunt for a top four seed in the Pac-12 Tournament in two weeks.
Slocum and Rueck didn’t know much about one another when the Meridian, Idaho native decided she wanted to transfer from Maryland, where she was named the WBCA National Freshman of the Year, and showed an interest in the Beavers’ program.
“I was looking for a fit, a culture that I liked,” Slocum said.
Rueck hadn’t recruited her out of high school. He knew only that she was close friends with his veteran guard, Mikayla Pivec. Following Slocum’s decision to transfer, he reached out to gauge her interest.
“We had almost a two-hour conversation,” Slocum said. “He said he wanted to get to know me, that he didn’t want to bring just anybody in. No matter how good you are, you want to bring in people that are a fit for your program and that really impressed me.”
Rueck said he asked her every question he could think of.
“I grilled her. I didn’t offer her right away. I said, ‘You might be a great fit for us, but I don’t know you’,” Rueck said. “I was setting out to find a flaw. But I had such a great conversation with her. She had done her research about us. She said so many things that aligned with us, that made sense. We set up a visit and it seemed like a great fit. That’s proven true.”
Slocum arrived in Corvallis in the fall of 2017 and immediately got comfortable with her new teammates and coaches.
In practice last season, she led the scout team, playing the roles of Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, UCLA’s Jordin Canada and Arizona’s Reili Richardson, to name a few.
“She could do it all,“ Rueck said. “She could drive left or right. She could be whoever we needed. She taught me so much about her game and how versatile she is.”
Slocum said that spending a year watching games from the bench and leading the scout team at practice gave her a perspective on the game she hadn’t had before.
“I feel like I saw what the coaches see, that I knew what Scott was saying,” Slocum said. “To have that year, to learn what defense he wants, what offense he wants, what he needs from his point guard, it gave me the structure I needed. I think it helped me a lot this year, especially at the beginning.
Slocum has led Oregon State in scoring 14 games this season and has collected 12 games where she scored at least 20 points.
“At first, I was really antsy to be playing again, but I feel like I was able to ease myself into it pretty quickly,” Slocum said. “Now when I come off screens, I know the reads we have. It took a little time, but I feel very settled now. Like I’ve been here forever.”
Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. For previous Michelle Smith