When Mark Turgeon took over as Texas A&M basketball coach this year, he knew that the lack of an experience point guard would be an issue, especially as a former point guard himself.
He started the season with senior Dominique Kirk at the position, but has started using sophomore Donald Sloan to handle the ball lately, and while it's certainly been a roller coaster ride at times with turnovers and missed free throws, the players are behind the younger Sloan.
"Sloan is doing a great job for us but he's still young, and in the Big 12 Conference, experience goes a long ways," said Joseph Jones. "People forget that Acie (Law) struggled sometimes his sophomore year as well, but he had guys like Antoine Wright, me down low, Chris Walker and (senior point guard) Bobby Leach giving him confidence and then he started playing great for us."
Ah yes, Bobby Leach. There's a name that you probably haven't thought about in a while.
Leach actually made quite an impact on the A&M basketball legend-to-be during Law's sophomore year, a luxury that Sloan has not been afforded during his second year at A&M.
Leach averaged more than 25 minutes per game in 2004-2005, and was handling the ball a lot as well, taking the pressure off of Law that season. He was also the leading scorer in two of the Aggies' last five games that season, scoring 25 points against Baylor, and a team-high 23 points on the road against DePaul to lead the Aggies to the NIT quarterfinals at Reed Arena.
If you compare Law's numbers in 2004-05 to those of Sloan this season, they're not too far off.
As a sophomore, Law finished the season with an assist to turnover ratio of 1.8, posting 153 assists and 85 turnovers on the year. This year, Sloan has a 1.6 ratio with 61 assists and 39 turnovers through the first 19 games of the year. That number has taken a hit lately as well, with 17 turnovers in the Aggies' last four games.
Makes you wonder what Sloan could do with a Bobby Leach on the floor.
But Sloan isn't worried about the recent struggles, and he's not making excuses either. He knows that he's got a lot of work to do, but he also feels like he's grown up a lot in the past two weeks.
"I can't even explain (how much I've grown up)," Sloan said. "The three losses were tough but they were humbling at the same time. It makes you realize that we haven't arrived yet. We really need to work to get better."
After the Aggies second consecutive blowout loss at Kansas State, Law called Sloan to try and offer his assistance.
"I was on the bus back here and he said, ‘Man what's wrong?'" Sloan said. "I said, ‘I don't know.' He said, ‘I had to do what I had to do to get everyone together. Whether you know it or not, you're one of the best players on the team and everyone is looking at you to see what you're going to do when things don't go right. (Losing to KSU by 20) is not Texas A&M basketball.' We came out against Baylor and tried but it didn't bounce that way at the end."
But after a coming away with the win on the road at Oklahoma State, Sloan is hopeful that the Aggies will carry that momentum into the Texas game and "get the train back on the tracks."
"Going into the OSU game, our focus was a lot better than what it has been all season long," Sloan said. "We were in a situation where we had to play well. We played well and got the win and if everybody's focus is the same as it was, we'll be alright."
OTHER NOTES FROM DONALD SLOAN
Sloan on being the guy that is going to dictate the offense in key situations:
It feels good, but not being able to get the W is not what I expected. In one of the overtimes, I expected to get fouled and end it at the line. Unfortunately it didn't end that way, we had to grind it out and didn't come out with the win. It feels good to be the guy to dictate the game at the end though.
Sloan on his recent free throw struggles
You shoot after practice and you shoot during practice and they roll in. You get in the game situation and you do everything the same way they just don't seem to fall. It's frustrating after a while.
Free throws are key. I thought about that the other day. How am I going to have the ball at the end if I'm struggling at FTs right now. If I make a couple I'll get back on track. Right now I just seem to be missing a lot of them. Just keep shooting, I'll get better.
Sloan gaining confidence in new role
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