A.J. Slaughter plans to graduate with a degree in sociology this May, but if things go according to plan, the senior guard won’t have to use it just yet.
Slaughter told the Herald last week that he’s planning to play professional basketball next season after going through the NBA Draft camp process, acquiring an agent and deliberating with family.
“Coming in as a freshman, I never thought I’d even see this opportunity I’m about to explore,” he said.
Slaughter, who averaged a team-high 17.5 points per game last season and was named to the Sun Belt All-Conference First Team, said he was headed home last weekend for three face-to-face interviews with potential agents.
The next step after that, Slaughter said, is the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Portsmouth, Va., which runs April 7-10. If all goes well, Slaughter hopes to be invited to the NBA Pre-Draft Combine in Chicago, famous for seeing its attendees taken in the draft.
Last year, 52 players participated in the combine. The NBA Draft is made up of 60 picks over two rounds.
“It’s just a waiting game,” Slaughter said. “I’d love to get drafted, but guys that don’t get drafted still have a chance to make the NBA. I’m just shooting for the best that I can.”
While Slaughter waits on his trip to Portsmouth, he continues to work with Western’s strength staff three times a week, run through the Toppers’ individual drills and play one-on-one with his former teammates.
Slaughter said the goal is to improve his ball handling while maintaining his shooting touch and lockdown defense — all the while assured that a 6-3, 180-pound prospect will be asked to play point guard rather than shooting guard in the NBA.
If there’s anything working against Slaughter, Head Coach Ken McDonald said it’s that he’d be an undersized shooting guard but fits just right at the point, where Slaughter began playing at the tail end of his senior season.
McDonald compared Slaughter to Eric Murdoch, a former Providence teammate of his and a nine-year NBA player, as a combo guard with a tendency to make clutch decisions.
“He’s just got a knack for scoring and getting by you,” McDonald said.
Looking past appear- ance, Athletics Director Wood Selig said he sees shades of Chris Marcus — a former Topper and two-time All-American — in the way Slaughter can take over a game and carry his team.
“He’s just passionate about the game and has such a great work ethic,” Selig said. “I think he has an NBA build — an NBA body. He might have to add a little bit of weight, but I think he’s got the endurance and stamina to play at that level.”
If the NBA stars don’t align, Slaughter said he’d talk over what’s next with his family, whether it be the NBA’s Development League or a career overseas.
But after four years at Western, Slaughter said he doesn’t anticipate he’ll be a hard sell for any team interested.
“I’m a good kid on and off the court,” he said. “After the success I’ve had for four years, being in school for four years, you learn so much and grow as a person.”