The state tournament has brought several top high school basketball prospects to Rupp Arena in recent years before they’ve gone on to play for major colleges.
It’s a list that includes Kentucky’s Dominique Hawkins, Louisville’s Quentin Snider and Ray Spalding, Butler’s Kelan Martin and Vanderbilt’s Camron Justice, all of whom played in the Sweet Sixteen over the past three years.
Get ready to add Taylor County standout David Sloan to that list.
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Sloan — a 6-foot junior guard — is back in the state tournament for the second consecutive season, and he’s bringing more than a dozen scholarship offers with him.
ESPN ranks Sloan as a four-star recruit, and Rivals.com and 247Sports both consider him one of the top 150 players nationally in the recruiting class of 2017.
He has averaged 20.3 points per game and shot 44.3 percent from three-point range this season while sharing a backcourt with Mr. Basketball candidate and Xavier signee Quentin Goodin.
Taylor County Coach Rich Gatewood said Sloan — a super-quick guard who excels at getting to the basket — has improved this season by not over-dribbling and forcing shots around the basket. He’s playing a more controlled brand of basketball, and he’s made progress with his mid-range game.
“Believe it or not — and as well as he shoots it from three — college coaches love guards that can shoot that mid-range,” Gatewood said. “It makes you that much more dangerous. Too many kids fall in love with the three-ball and they want to stand out there and shoot it from deep. At the end of the day, it’s about being able to make shots. You got to make high-percentage shots.”
College coaches have been paying plenty of attention to Sloan.
Louisville assistant coach Mike Balado attended Taylor County’s region title victory over Bardstown last week to see Sloan play. Gatewood named Butler, Cincinnati, Iowa State and Vanderbilt as other schools that have shown considerable interest in Sloan’s recruitment this season. He also has reported scholarship offers from Clemson, Missouri and Tennessee, among others.
Gatewood said that Sloan will play his summer ball for Memphis-based Team Thad on the Under Armour circuit, and he intends to narrow his list in the next few months and make a college decision before the start of his senior season.
That’s the same way Goodin handled the process. A year older than Sloan, he had dozens of college scholarships and cut his list to five schools last June before committing to Xavier in August.
Gatewood said that playing alongside Goodin, who is averaging 23.1 points per game this season, has helped Sloan both on and off the court.
The Taylor County coach acknowledges stealing some ideas from recent UConn teams that won NCAA titles while playing two point guards at the same time. “It just makes you that much more dangerous,” he said. “You have two guys that can pass and make plays. And when both of them are shooting it well, it makes you unguardable.”
Off the court, Sloan has benefited from watching the way Goodin handled his recruitment. There was little drama, and it ended with him headed to one of the best programs in college basketball and early enough to enjoy his senior season with no distractions.
Goodin’s father, Chris, who is also a Taylor County assistant coach, has helped Sloan stay up to speed on the new, more stringent academic requirements that go into effect starting with the class of 2016. The Goodins have also counseled Sloan on college coach-speak.
“There’s some guys out there that are full of it and tell you what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear,” Gatewood said. “They’ve been able to tell him, ‘Hey, college coaches are going to tell you this and that, and this is what you need to look for.’
“It’s been very beneficial in many, many ways. There’s no doubt.”