By Drew Kamaski
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – At the start, Destiny Slocum’s first season at the University of Maryland began with the expectation of being an important part of the top-rated recruiting class in the nation. At the end of her first Big Ten tournament championship, the ball was in her hands close to the midcourt line. Slocum dribbled close to the floor with her eyes on the clock.
When it reached zero and the horn sounded, she flipped the ball to an official and wound up in the arms of her celebrating teammates. After Maryland’s 74-64 victory over Purdue gave the Terrapins their third consecutive Big Ten title, Slocum sat in an interview room with Brionna Jones, the senior center who was named most outstanding player of the tournament, and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, a senior guard who was on the all-tournament team.
Slocum had scored 14 points with seven assists, and provided the type of structure that cannot be captured in a box score. A reporter made the observation that Slocum appeared to play beyond her years. Then there was the question: What drives you?
“Just my team,” she said. “They make me better than I look, I promise you. To have these two to pass to, it’s crazy. She makes every shot. She also makes every shot. So they make me look better than I really am.”
Slocum was not only a key figure in the Terrapins regular season, during which she broke the freshman record for assists with 179 and 3-pointers made in a season with 60, but also in the Big Ten Tournament. She averaged 15 points and six assists in the three games Maryland played throughout the tournament.
“She’s the point guard that we’ve been missing,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese, whose teams have a 9-0 record in Big Ten Tournament play since joining the conference in the 2014-15 season. “She’s the engine that makes us go and you see just with her energy, with her spirit, she makes everybody else around her better.”
The young point guard’s ability to move the ball and facilitate the offense is what makes her such a key asset to the Terrapins. Slocum led the Big Ten in assists averaging 7.5 per game.
The Meridian, Idaho native averaged 4.6 turnovers per game in the Big Ten Tournament. When pressed by Purdue in the fourth quarter, Slocum carried herself with the poise of a senior. On multiple occasions the freshman was trapped in a double team near half-court, and had the presence of mind to pump fake, get the pressing Purdue guards off their feet, and calmly deliver a bounce pass into one of her teammates, relieving the pressure.
Not only was her ability to facilitate the offense impressive, but the freshman was also clutch shooting the ball. Slocum shot 45.5 percent from the field on 15-of-33 shooting and 40 percent from beyond the arc, knocking down 10 of her 25 3-point attempts in the three games.
Performances under pressure are not new to the latest Maryland point guard. Earlier in the season, she scored seven straight points in the final 2:00 of a 78-72 victory over No. 7 Louisville. Late in the semifinal victory over Michigan State, Slocum made three shots within a span of 1:16, a pair of 3-pointers and another shot, to push what had been an 11-point lead to 17 with 2:20 to play.
In the final against the Boilermakers, who had eliminated top-seeded Ohio State on Saturday, Slocum scored in double digits for the 18th time of her career, shooting 5-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-9 from beyond the arc. Slocum was swarmed and embraced by her teammates at half court as the final buzzer sounded, winning her first Big Ten Tournament Title.
“This is one step on a long journey,” said Slocum. “It’s exciting. Especially knowing this journey started in the summer, and we’re still not finished.”