The entire floor is Brandon Slater’s stomping ground. If the 6-foot-6 junior is Paul VI’s center, why does he also flip three-point goggles to his friends in the student section? If he is a giant guard, what’s with the post moves and vicious rebounds?
“He’s a big-time player,” senior point guard Aaron Thompson said. “I’ve seen him grow so much since he was a freshman. It’s his time now.”
Slater can play big or small, and his 34 points, 10 rebounds and five assists led the No. 7 Panthers to an 83-73 victory over No. 1 Gonzaga on Monday in Fairfax.
First and foremost, Slater is an athlete who grew up with coaches telling him to handle the ball, attack the basket and learn to shoot jumpers.
When he grew into his height, the same coaches told him to get on the block and put his back to the basket.
Paul VI rebuffs all that. The Panthers simply push the ball and look for offense at NASCAR speed.
Yes, Gonzaga runs fast and doesn’t use a true center either. But the Eagles were a step too slow to hang with Slater.
The Panthers (14-2, 7-1 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) built a 21-point lead in the second quarter before a standing-room-only crowd on the back of consecutive Slater three-pointers. He hit four on the night.
Slater picked up his 10th rebound and 32nd, 33rd and 34th points in a traditional three-point play: He outmuscled a Gonzaga player for a missed free throw, pounded the ball on the floor with his right hand and scooped it up and threw in a flip shot all while a defender held his left and was called for a foul.
“He’s a fighter,” said freshman guard Jeremy Roach, who finished with eight points and three assists. “He just loves the game.”
Thompson added 13 points and seven assists.
Eddie Scott, a University of Pennsylvania commit, led Gonzaga (13-3, 6-1) with 15 points, and freshman Terrance Williams scored 14 off the bench. Senior guard Chris Lykes, who entered averaging 18.9 points, finished with 11.
“Even though I play the five [center], it’s not really the five,” Slater said. “We’re all guards. We’re going to do what we’re going to do.”
Even the traditionally rough-and-tumble WCAC has yielded to gargantuan guards who swish 23-footers one possession, block a shot on defense and start the fast break without a care.
This is Paul VI’s task for Slater: to run the offense at breakneck speed alongside Roach and Thompson.
“We have similar styles,” Thompson said of the matchup with Gonzaga. “We had to be a little bit faster than them.”