It’s been three years since A.J. Slaughter donned a Western Kentucky basketball jersey, and while his dream of playing basketball in the NBA seemed dim at that time, he’s never given up hope. Suddenly, that dream looks more like a legitimate possibility than ever for the 6-foot-3-inch guard.
He’s been invited to play for the Orlando Magic’s summer league team, a major step toward playing professionally full time in the United States.
While playing for Cholet in France last season, the Magic came to take a look at Rudy Gobert, a 7-foot-2 center expected to be selected in tonight’s NBA Draft.
Slaughter said Magic general manager Rob Hennigan recognized Slaughter from his days playing at WKU with Courtney Lee, who was drafted in 2008 to Orlando. Hennigan invited the Shelby County product to Orlando this summer.
“I was excited,” Slaughter said. “That’s what I work hard for and that’s what my dream is, to play in the NBA. I was excited when I got the news, and now I’m trying my best to be prepared going into the minicamp.”
Slaughter was in Bowling Green this week working out with Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz and former Hilltoppers Steffphon Pettigrew and Tyrone Brazelton.
He said he’ll head to Orlando this weekend to meet with Magic coaches and staff and begin preparing for the summer league, which starts July 7.
“I wouldn’t say nervous, just really excited for the opportunity,” he said. “You really can’t be nervous going into things like this. More excited than anything.”
With Cholet this season, Slaughter led his team in scoring at 13.5 points per game while dishing out 3.9 assists per contest. As fate would have it, Cholet put Slaughter at the point guard position.
“I really had a strong season – I would say my best season so far,” he said. “They played me more at the point guard position, so I got a lot of experience playing the point, which is what the Magic is wanting me to come in and play. That was good that I got to get a full season under my belt at the point guard position.”
The Orlando Magic Summer League runs through July 13 and the Magic team – officially announced after the NBA Draft – will play Boston, Oklahoma City, Miami and Philadelphia in Orlando.
All games can be watched at NBA.com.
If Slaughter’s efforts don’t land him a spot on the Magic’s opening day roster, he has a sturdy backup plan, having already signed with Es Chalon-Sur-Saone in France.
Chalon, which reached the semifinals of the French League where it was swept 2-0 against Nanterre, gave Slaughter an out-clause in his contract that allows him to leave if offered a contract with an NBA team.