Donald Sloan, Texas Legends. Photo Credit: Suad Bejtovic Photography
Donald Sloan is over the moon about playing so close to home again, but the road taken by the Seagoville High School product to reach this point with the Texas Legends has been winding, to put it mildly.
After Sloan, now 29, graduated from Seagoville in 2006, he made his way to Texas A&M, where he starred for the Aggies until 2010.
He went undrafted in 2010 and after a stint with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings in summer league and preseason, he found himself in the NBA Development League or D-League. Sloan also spent time in the Philippines before making his NBA debut with Atlanta in 2011.
Since then, he has played 218 NBA games for five different teams, has also seen time in the D-League and had two separate stints in China.
But now that he’s with the Legends, he’s relishing the chance to play regularly in his hometown for the first time in over a decade.
It’s been great. It’s been a very warm, open and open-arm feeling. Since day one, they’ve made me feel like a great part of the team. The guys are great, the staff is great, high-character people,” Sloan said prior to his Legends debut on December 6 against Canton.
This is his fourth stint in the G-League as Sloan has previously spent time with Reno, Erie and Sioux Falls, back when it was known as the D-League prior to the rebrand last summer to reflect the league’s new sponsorship deal with Gatorade.
And as someone who knew the ins and outs of the old D-League well, Sloan has noticed several differences between the league he previously played in and how things are in year one as the G-League.
It’s definitely been expanded since the last time I was part of it,” Sloan said. “Since I went pro in 2010 and finally cracked the NBA in 2011, the game’s completely different than what it was then. Just seeing how the young guys are, seeing I was just like that at 23, 24-years-old, it’s funny to me. I’m just here soaking it all in, trying to get healthy. Feeling a lot better now and hopefully things will go smooth.”
Sloan brings eight-plus years of experience playing in the G-League, NBA and abroad to the Legends, and second-year head coach Bob MacKinnon Jr. is happy to have such a seasoned veteran on his roster.
However, MacKinnon doesn’t expect Sloan to be a Legend for long.
Well, he’s an NBA-level point guard and I think he’s only going to be with us a short time because in my mind, he’s at minimum a backup NBA-level point guard,” MacKinnon said. “I think you see with injuries and things right now, there’s going to be a lot of need for that (in the NBA). “He’s just got a great mind for the game, and he has the physical attributes to back it up.”
During his previous G-League stints, Sloan had plenty of experience playing against MacKinnon-coached teams, but this marks his first time playing for him.
And as someone who has played for a multitude of different coaches as a pro, Sloan took to MacKinnon immediately, even comparing him to Scott Brooks of the Washington Wizards, who he played for this preseason before being one of their final cuts.
It’s been great, (he’s) high-energy, vocal. He’s a great guy. I think he does things the right way,” Sloan said. “He demands the best out of one through 12. He coaches everybody the same way. He’s going to lay into guys that are playing 35 minutes and he’s going to lay into guys that are playing two minutes. I love it.”
Sloan didn’t make his Legends debut until December 6, his first opportunity to play with most of his new teammates.
But there is one Legends player Sloan has played with before, Texas big man Jameel Warney, who Sloan was teammates with during two games with Team USA in November, an assignment he calls a huge honor.
That was great, great experience. They treated us first class,” Sloan said. “(Head coach) Jeff Van Gundy was intense, direct, knew what he wanted to get out of us and he got it. Other than going to war for your country, what better way to do something for your country than to compete for it? We wore that USA on our chest with pride, and we got it done.”
Like many well-traveled players who land in the G-League, Sloan has spent some time abroad, with one stint in the Philippines and two separate stays in China.
Many NBA players have played in the People’s Republic and had mixed opinions about the experience. Some liked playing there, others did not.
However, Sloan’s experience in China, which included winning the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) championship in 2013, was overwhelmingly positive.
My time over there was great. First time I went over there was for a month and a half, won the CBA Championship,” he said. “The second time I went was probably the full course. I was there seven months, I was asked to do a lot of things that I hadn’t been doing for a while-rebound, play 40 minutes. It’s taxing on the body, but overall, the organization was professional.”
They made sure me and (fellow American) Carlos Boozer were well taken care of as far as treatments, payments and finding food to eat. It’s not always like that (abroad). They were A-1 with everything they did.”
Playing abroad taught him plenty of lessons about basketball and about life. Sloan is still only 29, but with eight years of pro experience, is one of the Legends’ most experienced players.
And when it comes to sharing that sage advice with his new teammates, he doesn’t hesitate in the least, because he was once in their shoes, hoping to reach the NBA, and remembers how good veteran teammates were to him in helping him acclimate to life as a pro rather quickly.
When I first came into the D-League, I had Salim Stoudemire and Aaron Miles, those guys to lead me, show me and tell me how it’s going to be, what I got to look forward to down the road,” Sloan said. “Having Kyle (Collinsworth), Bryson (Fonville) and even some of the bigs like (Johnathan) Motley, getting in his ear, putting him under my wing and letting him know the basketball side and business side of this game, just trying to keep them level-headed, not too high, not too low, just stay the course.”
Coaching players with NBA experience is nothing new for MacKinnon, but even he admits that when he has one or two of those individuals on his roster it makes things easier for he and his staff.
Yeah, his whole body of work, to me it shows that he’s an NBA player,” MacKinnon said of Sloan. “When you’ve got NBA guards on your roster with he, (Justin) Dentmon, Collinsworth now is coming on, your game flow is much better.”
Of course, Sloan’s goal is to return to the NBA, something which he feels will be a distinct possibility in the future. However, for now, he’s focused on regaining full health so he can showcase his skill set as a veteran guard who will add plenty of value to whichever NBA team signs him after the first of the year.
Right now, it’s about getting healthy to 100 percent. I’m working my way towards 100, but I don’t think you can get a call-up being hurt,” Sloan said. “The main thing is to go out and be productive and be smart at the same time. But I think any team that needs a veteran guard that has done it on that level, is in shape, who’s ready, I think they know where to go.”