Men's Basketball, Men's Sports, Sports

Making Magic: Colin Slater’s Long Beach legacy ends with Big West Player of the Year

Colin Slater experienced perhaps the most dramatic highs and lows of any basketball player in recent memory. The point guard was selected to be Big West Player of the Year and was a big part of a thrilling win to get into the Big West championship game, and also of the team’s heartbreaking loss to Fullerton in the final game March 12.

Police are investigating an Indiana man who allegedly threatened Slater, Long Beach State and the Fullerton team. Slater declined to talk about that incident which was a sad ending to an inspiring season for Slater, 24, who intends to register for the NBA draft in the coming weeks.

“I’ve learned that this team and coaching staff will sacrifice anything to win. Whatever we have to do to succeed, we will do,” Slater spoke on what he learned during his time spent at Long Beach.

Growing up in New Orleans, basketball was Slater’s last choice. His parents placed him in every sport except basketball. He tried football, baseball and soccer.

It wasn’t until they found out he had an allergy to fresh-cut grass that they finally put Slater on a basketball court.

He moved out to Central California as a child. When high school came around, Slater continued to excel in the game.

At Immanuel High School, he became a four-year varsity player and broke numerous school records including most points in a game with 52 and most points in a season with 688.

His stellar seasons earned him accolades every year including being named Maxpreps Division IV Player of the Year in his senior year. Slater also maintained a 4.0 GPA while also playing the saxophone and participating in numerous clubs.

College basketball recruiters began to notice the player, and Slater’s hope was that he’d be able to go back home and play for Tulane University in Louisiana.

“I have always wanted to go to Tulane ever since I was a kid,” Slater said. “I didn’t care how good they were, basketball-wise, but to just wear that name across my chest.”

Slater pursued that childhood dream of his and committed to Tulane. He attended Tulane for his first two years of eligibility, but Slater said he felt the coaches provided him with little to no confidence and support.

“There wasn’t a collective belief in who I was as a player,” Slater said. “So, I just continued to work hard. I am not a person that feels that everyone has to be on board with me, I maybe just need to work harder.”

His sister, Miz-Unique, said her brother has always been determined.

“Once Colin makes up his mind about something, that is what it is,” Miz-Unique said.

Slater spent all summer working on getting better to expand his role on the team and earn more playing time as an underclassman. Later, the coach told Slater that his 6 foot and 1 inch height wasn’t tall enough for him to be selected as the starting guard. So Slater entered the transfer portal.

When he entered the portal, he received a variety of offers from various schools all over the country, but one person in particular reached out that stood above the rest: Long Beach State assistant coach Senque Carey.

“He reached out and was like ‘hey man, I got a guy who believes in you and you know I believe in you so you wanna make some magic?’” Slater said.

After the call, Slater went on a visit to Long Beach State and met head coach Dan Monson, where it became a “done deal.”

When Carey showed footage of Slater to Monson, he and the coaching staff felt Slater was a perfect fit for their team.

Moving across the country to Long Beach and a new team took some adjusting for Slater. However, because of the NCAA Division I rule, Slater was forced to sit out and redshirt the 2018-2019 season.

When he could finally play a season for Long Beach State, COVID-19 struck and forced Slater to miss another semester.

When Fall of 2021 rolled around, The Beach was picked to finish eighth in the conference. Despite this, Slater shared that it was motivating.

“We had a sense of hunger,” Slater said. “We felt really disrespected that people didn’t believe in us. It wasn’t that we were trying to prove people wrong, we just knew who we were.”

Slater stepped up to the challenge and after a below .500 pre-season start, the team took a step back and had some needed conversations with one another to help figure out a strategy.

“As a team, we all rallied around each other’s sacrifices. We connected and everything went up from there,” Slater said. “Everyone was able to adapt to their needed role and connected with one another as one unit.”

Slater took the lead. He stressed the importance of having awareness of your teammates and showing every possession you have their back, and that’s what he did. He put his team first and led by example.

“He was just a great leader. And I think he led by example for a lot of years, just being a hard worker and doing the things coaches asked him to do,” Monson said.

Slater’s leadership led The Beach to an 11-game winning streak after losing their first conference game on Jan. 8. They ended up finishing first in the Big West with a conference record of 12-3.

Photo by Nico Alba
Slater posing for a photo after clinching first place in the Big West Conference Photo credit: Nico Alba

The team clinched the No. 1 seed in the Big West tournament after defeating UC Riverside in the Walter Pyramid on March 5. It was the team’s first Big West title since 2013. After an incredible season turnaround, all their sacrifices had finally paid off.

“After the buzzer sounded and it became real for me, I broke down in tears. This is all I wanted. This is all we worked for,” Slater said.

A couple of days later, Slater was heading into the movie theater when he received notifications from Twitter congratulating him for being named the Big West Player of the Year.

“I clicked the link and I was like ‘Oh my God, I’m the Big West Player of the Year? This is incredible,” Slater said. “I bought an ICEE and some nachos and watched a movie.”

After hours spent putting in extra work in the Pyramid until 3 a.m., Slater has nothing but gratitude to those who have been there for him and believed in him.

“They finally see who I am as a player. It’s been gratifying. They see your sacrifice, your work, and your worth too. It still doesn’t feel real to me,” Slater said. “To be in the company of Long Beach legends like Casper Ware, I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Slater’s next aspirations are to become a professional basketball player – something he has dreamed of since he was a little kid. After graduating this year, he plans to pursue this childhood dream and play professionally.

“I’m communicating with people, sitting down in meetings, and going over my next step,” Slater said.

He wants to pursue a career playing professional basketball, either overseas or for the NBA. He also mentioned plans to receive his master’s degree.

“I am going to enjoy it until the ball stops bouncing,” Slater said. “But it seems like it is just starting to begin.”

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