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But that’s just the beginning.
Talent can only get you so far, and so much more is asked and required from a player in order to stick around and have longevity in the big leagues — and then some. That’s something newly signed Pacers point guard Donald Sloan knows a thing or two about.
The 6-foot-3 journeyman went undrafted in 2010 after 4 years at Texas A&M where he finished seventh in Aggie history in career scoring with 1,522 points and eighth in assists with 370.
Not about to quit on his NBA dream, Sloan worked his way into receiving a one year non-guaranteed contract from the Sacramento Kings. He was part of their 2010 Summer League roster, but ended up getting cut prior to the start of the season and found himself in the D-League as a member of the Reno Longhorns.
After his stint with the Longhorns and facing an absence of significant interest from NBA teams, Sloan rolled the dice and tried his hand at playing basketball overseas during the 2011 offseason and landed in Manila as a replacement import for the Barangay Ginebra Kings after Curtis Stinson, who was coming off an NBA D-League MVP season, had to cut out after a knee injury ended his PBA stint after only four games.
Sloan would end up playing only seven games in the Philippines, averaging 22.6 points, 5.3 assists while torching the nets from behind the arc at a 40.7% clip leading his team to the Governors’ Cup tournament semifinals.
Thereafter, Sloan continued his journey to the NBA and finally latched on to an NBA team as he suited up for the Atlanta Hawks in December of the 2011-12 season, but was waived after playing only five games in late January.
His basketball odyssey ensued as he saw himself bouncing around from the D-League to the NBA and back with stints with the New Orleans Hornets and the Cleveland Cavaliers as well as a return to Asia, this time as part of the Guangdong Southern Tigers in China.
After much globetrotting, a few moments of doubt, and much more of his indefatigable perseverance, Sloan was finally rewarded with a multi-year contract from the Pacers in the offseason, temporarily putting a halt to his nomadic ventures in exchange for a shot at winning a world championship with a true contender.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said the 25-year-old who will be the Pacers’ third point guard behind George Hill and CJ Watson.
“It’s a great team and by far one of the best teams I’ve ever played on or dressed up for, whether it be college or NBA, professional, whatever,” added Sloan. “This team is definitely in the running to win it all this year.”
But after signing his first guaranteed contract, Sloan knows there’s more work to be done and the competition just gets stiffer. “Definitely great competition. The guys bring it every day, fighting for minutes, but my role is to get in the game, speed up the other guard, pick him up 94 feet, create, get guys open and find them,” said Sloan.
As a bonus, Sloan also gets a homecoming of sorts when he joins the Pacers in Manila for their second preseason game against the Houston Rockets as part of the NBA’s Global Games on October 10. The coincidence couldn’t be any sweeter for the young journeyman as it jogs up nostalgic moments of his road to fulfilling his NBA dream.
“Even though my stint over there (Manila) was short, I loved it. I loved my teammates, I loved the culture and the country,” a smiling Sloan told this scribe last week during the Pacers’ Media Day.
“That was one of my stepping stones, one of the steps that I took to wind up in this jersey right here,” added Sloan as he proudly grasped his number 15 Pacers jersey.
Sloan referred to Manila as his “second home” and maintained that he still keeps in contact with several of his former Ginebra teammates such as Ronald Tubid, Mike Cortez, Willy Wilson, Eric Menk, and Mark Caguioa, whom he jokingly refers to as “The President”.
“Never say die! That’s what we live by when we were playing for Ginebra,” shared Sloan, who has very fond memories of the Philippines including the food, and plans to take his former teammates out to dinner while in town.
Sloan also had a message for his fans in the Philippines.
“I’m coming back to see you, even though it’s not to play for Ginebra. I’m coming back in a right way. Look out for me!”
Sloan’s basketball journey is truly an encouraging anecdote of an athlete’s unwillingness to give up on a dream and his appreciation for the road taken. His story may take a backseat next week when superstars like Dwight Howard, James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Paul George invade town, but it’s one that doesn’t fall short of inspiring.