By Corbin McGuire
David Sloan’s favorite basketball player is four-time NBA All-Star Rajon Rondo, which makes sense for a few different reasons.
One, both are from Louisville, Kentucky. And both are point guards. Sloan, now K-State’s starting point guard, said he’s looked up to Rondo since he was 9 or 10 years old. He remembered wearing Rondo’s patented headband, arm sleeve and a mouthpiece, just to pretend he was him.
“I used to do it all,” Sloan said.
Their connection goes a step further, too. Rondo, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, still comes back to Louisville to train occasionally in the offseason. When he does, he trains with Sloan’s cousin. More than once, Sloan said he’s joined in.
“I’ve actually worked out with him a couple of times. He just talked to me about a couple things and I watched him play open gym. I watched him work out,” Sloan said. “It definitely changed my work ethic just to see the way he works and the way he communicates.”
Sloan said he still tries to watch every game of Rondo’s that he can. It’s helped him, especially this year, adapt to changing roles.
A starter for as long as he can remember, Sloan began this season as a backup point guard. Rondo’s going through a similar situation with the Lakers, but he’s still averaged 7.6 points and 5.4 assists off the bench. Through that, Sloan said he understood that Rondo’s mindset and approach did not change, regardless of how he got in the game.
“It kind of helps me with the position I’m going through right now,” Sloan said, as K-State (8-11, 1-5) hosts Oklahoma (13-6, 3-3) on Wednesday at 7 p.m., on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. “I definitely try to bring the same approach either way. It’s definitely a blessing getting in the game.”
Sloan has started the last three games, boosting K-State’s ball movement on offense. The Wildcats have averaged 14.7 assists in that stretch, which followed a four-game stint of producing only 8.8 as a team.
“He’s just a great help,” K-State redshirt junior Cartier Diarra said of Sloan. “He knows how to pick and dissect the defense.”
Diarra, K-State’s primary point guard for most of the season, has benefitted from moving off the ball more. Since Sloan’s insertion into the starting lineup, Diarra has averaged 16.7 points per game, 3.5 points more than his season average.
“David is a really good driver as well. Even with him not being as tall, he still gets to the basket at will. He creates,” Diarra said. “He’s definitely helped.”
Individually, Sloan’s minutes have increased as a starter but, more importantly, so has his production.
In his first two starts, the community college transfer collected 26 points on 9 of 18 from the floor and 2 of 5 from three, while also recording 10 assists and five steals. He averaged 34 minutes between those two games, roughly twice the average amount (17.2) he’s played this season. Last Saturday at Alabama, Sloan battled foul trouble, eventually fouling out, but managed five points in 12 minutes along with an assist.
Sloan said he’s focused his efforts on one word lately: Energy.
“I’m trying to bring a lot of energy, get out of my comfort zone,” he said. “The coaches talk to me about getting out of my comfort zone in practice so it can translate to the game.”
Defense has been high on that list of asks. What K-State head coach Bruce Weber and his staff ask their players to do, defensively, is not easy, but it’s proven. K-State ranked in the top five last season in the NCAA in scoring defense and won a share of the Big 12 Championship. The Wildcats were one of the best defensive teams in the NCAA Tournament in 2018 and advanced to the Elite Eight.
So, defense is a must. Sloan’s been reminded of it since he arrived. He’s showed strides on that end of the floor as of late, including a four-steal performance against West Virginia.
“Defense is in the process. Coaches are definitely helping me a lot on that. The coaches are going to push you, no matter if you like it or not. They’re going to get the best out of you, day in and day out, practice, game, workouts,” Sloan said. “They’re just going to get the best of out you.”
Source: Kansas State Sports