There are times when Janessa Thropay looks at her teammates and asks them if they’ve just witnessed what Destiny Slocum has done on the basketball court.
It’s typically after one of the “wow” moments that coach Scott Rueck mentioned in a postgame radio interview after the Oregon State women's basketball team defeated California last Sunday.
Usually it’s Slocum, the 5-foot-7 redshirt sophomore point guard, making a move and then blowing past the defender for an easy, and often uncontested, layup.
“So often I’m like, ‘did you guys just see that?’" Thropay said. “It was like nobody was in front of her. It’s insane how well she plays. She just has a way about her that she feels the game so well and you can’t teach that.”
Slocum, who began her career at Maryland, where she was named the national freshman of the year following the 2016-17 season, transferred to Oregon State and sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules.
Despite being part of the program last season, getting up to speed on the court with the Beavers took a little adjustment after the year away.
There were a few early struggles, but Slocum said her understanding and knowledge of the offense started to “click” in December.
“Just understanding what happens when I go somewhere and understanding, oh, this person is going to be there when I need them,” Slocum said. “I know exactly where they’re going to be (so) I don’t even have to turn my head and look to see if they are there.”
Slocum has also learned just how much preparation goes into taking on the strong lineup of Pac-12 Conference teams.
“I think once we hit Pac-12, things got real and it made a little more sense to me of how each night has to be and what our preparation, and my preparation as a point guard and someone who is pretty much the floor general, has to be every single night,” she said. “Every night is going to be a battle."
Those aspects were just part of the adjustment Slocum had to go through. As Thropay pointed out, there was some added pressure because of the success Slocum had at Maryland and the expectations many put on her to be the Beavers’ star from the start.
“It’s really hard to kind of find your identity in a whole new program when you’ve kind of already made an identity somewhere else,” Thropay said. “I think she’s done a great job navigating through that and really just being true to herself.”
Slocum has come into her own as of late, scoring 20 or more points in four straight games and leading the Beavers with 19.6 points per game in Pac-12 play.
“She’s a killer,” Thropay said. “She has the mindset of someone that’s like I don’t care what defense you’re in, I don’t care what person is in front of me, I’m going to score.”
Slocum has the ability to take over a game on the offensive end, as was evident when she scored 16 second-quarter points against Utah on Feb. 3 to help the Beavers rally to tie the game at the half.
Many of those points came on her ability to get to the basket.
While she seemingly has the ability to break down defenders off the dribble at will, she doesn’t consciously look to attack. It’s more a feel for the game and what the defense gives her.
“I know a lot of time in the beginning of the season we were able to manipulate the defense and kind of people didn’t really understand what our go-to was,” Slocum said. “Obviously we can shoot the 3-ball amazingly so a lot of people defend that now.
“I think it’s just been an adaption as a team to know that they’re going to take the 3-point line away from us so we’ve got to get to the rim. And that has to be another strong part of our offense. So I’ve really been trying to work on that, just straight-line drives, get in there, be efficient around the rim and finishing.”
When the defense does happen to try to close her off on those drives, Slocum is more than happy to dish it off to an open player.
That means her teammates on the court don’t have the luxury Thropay has had on the bench while she’s been recovering from a finger injury — they have to be ready at all times.
“We kind of have a little eye connection that we make,” sophomore Taya Corosdale said. “But her no-look passes are great. You’ve just got to be ready.”
While Slocum is on the Naismith Trophy midseason list (top player) as well as being in the top 10 for the Lieberman Award (top point guard), she is far from satisfied with her performance.
“Like any competitor, I want to be better than I am right now,” she said. “I’m happy where I am right now but I’m happy that there’s room to grow and a lot of potential.”
That more than likely means plenty more “wow” moments from Slocum in the years to come.