Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Donald Sloan moved to Dallas at five years old and by all intents and purposes has been molded by the DFW metroplex. 24 years after moving to the big city, he’s returned to its neighbor Frisco to play with our Texas Legends.
Sloan, 29, became a member of the Legends last week after the organization used their top waiver claim spot to acquire him. He immediately entered coach Bob MacKinnon’s rotation, playing in the team’s season opener in Austin one day after joining the team.
“I’m from Dallas so I was here waiting to see if any (NBA) team up top would need a serviceable guard before I made a decision to come to the G League,” says Sloan. “So I was at home and I actually joined the team on Friday morning and was able to practice for 15 minutes before we got on the bus to Austin,” he laughs.
The basketball world is one gigantic spider web and through the connections game, Sloan was able to find familiarity in reconnecting with fellow point guard Justin Dentmon. The two played together in the 2011 Pan American games in Guadalajara.
“I didn’t think I was going to play as much as I did, I actually didn’t think I was going to play at all. With just getting here and the five day window in between games, I actually thought I wouldn’t even make the trip. Coach Mac thought otherwise. I thought it was good to get out there and blow it out a little bit. Today (Tuesday) is the first (full) practice I’ve had.”
Sloan, who grew up a Mavericks fan, watching guards like Steve Nash and former Legends head coach Nick Van Exel perfect their craft, played high school ball at Seagoville with a name you might know: NBA all-star LaMarcus Aldridge.
“Looking back at it, we knew one of us would be an NBA player and of course you know which one that was! We talk and joke about the high school teams, we’re still close with our coach who’s like a father figure to us. Whenever we see each other, when I matched up with Portland or San Antonio we’d meet up at halfcourt and reminisce. Maybe have dinner, depending on the schedule.
“But we talk about the Seagoville days, growing up playing basketball outside. Having to practice outside when basketball season wasn’t in because we only had one gym. I think the volleyball team had the gym. We practiced outside on the concrete, doing drills. It’s funny going back and looking where we are now.”
As I said, basketball spider webs.
Coming out of Seagoville where as you’d expect, he and Aldridge spearheaded quite the team (they went 93-10 over three years), Sloan was heavily recruited by schools such as Kansas, Illinois, LSU and Oklahoma but found a home with the Texas A&M Aggies.
“A&M seemed like the right fit. It wasn’t too far from home, it was Big 12 at the time, they had a great coach there with Billy Gillispie and then Coach Turgeon filled in right behind him. Playing with guys like Acie Law, Dominique Kirk, Bryan Davis, Josh Carter, Derrick Roland, all guys from the Dallas area, it seemed like the right fit.”
The 6 foot 3 point guard played in the G League for parts of the 2010-2011 season as well as some time in the Philippines and returned to the G League the following year before earning the call-up to the Association.
On January 11th, 2012, Sloan made three of four shots, scoring six points and adding four rebounds in his NBA debut with the Atlanta Hawks.
“Oh, man. My heart was pounding. I didn’t want to mess up, I wanted to have the most energy I’ve ever had. The road took me to Sacramento camp, to Reno in the D-League at the time with Eric Musselman, but to don that jersey in the 2011 season, if you told me that would have been happening, I would have slapped you in the face and called you a liar.”
Sloan played with the Hawks, New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans) and the Cleveland Cavaliers that season. From 2013 to 2015 he played with the Indiana Pacers and followed that up with a stint in Brooklyn with the Nets in the 2015-2016 season.
He’s more than proven a capable NBA player and scored a career-high 31 points with the Pacers on November 5th of 2014. In January of 2016, he nearly recorded a triple-double for Brooklyn, notching 15 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.
Following his stay with the Nets, he received a lucrative offer to play in China and played there with the Guangdong Southern Tigers last year, returning to the club after previously appearing with them in 2013.
“Last year I played in China, that wasn’t because I didn’t have an (NBA) offer but I thought I deserved a little more than what was being offered. Training camp came along and I was offered $2.7 million for six months in China so for me, a guy who had never seen a big contract, that 2.7 was really enticing! I ended up taking it. I knew if we finished early I could be a guy that signs with a team for the rest of the season (back in the NBA) but we ended up going all the way to the championship so that wasn’t the option.”
Sloan went to training camp this past fall with the Washington Wizards but when that fell through, he and agent Bernie Lee mapped out a new game plan.
“The journey never stops. I play with a chip on my shoulder, I always have, and when the smoke clears I’m always standing. Since (my debut) I haven’t looked back, I haven’t thought of myself as anything but an NBA player and won’t let anybody tell me otherwise. It’s been quite a journey and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.”
The next phase of the extensive Donald Sloan story brings him full circle with his Dallas roots as a member of the Legends. “I knew it would be a little tough getting back in it with being gone for a year. But I’m looking forward to doing what I have to do, winning games here, helping some of the young guys get better, learn a little bit, play in games and not think about whatever happens after that. Not saying I don’t plan on being back up top, but I don’t know the timetable so while I’m here I’m embracing the new G League, my new teammates and just playing at home.”
With an emphasis on home, that’s something that the NBA veteran is absolutely looking forward to. “I haven’t played at home since 2006 so to finally be back home in the DFW metroplex playing basketball again is great. To be back home playing professionally, my family can come to the games, my friends can come to the games. There’s no trying to catch the games, I’m actually home. That was the thing my agent talked about. Playing in the G League, getting in front of teams and showing them I’m still ready, what better place to do it than home?”