Feature photo courtesy of DaynaO Photography.

Wes Slajchert: Student of the game

Wes Slajchert is known for being the smartest player on the basketball court. So when the three-star shooting guard from California drove to the basket in the waning moments of the Oak Park Eagles’ state playoff game, drawing the defense toward him, and kicked it out to his teammate for the game-winning shot in overtime, it was no surprise.

“I take pride in being the smartest player on the court, really showing my basketball IQ, and really being able to shoot the ball,” Slajchert said. “I’m a team guy. I’m a compete-first guy. I really just want to win the game.”

Slajchert noted that he isn’t the strongest or most athletic player so it is important that he contributes in other aspects of the game.

“My coaches tell me that I’ll be a great coach one day if I want to do that,” Slajchert said. “When you care about something, when you love something as much as I love basketball, you’re looking for things like that.”

Slajchert has grown accustomed to the big stage. The junior guard has spent all three years of his high school career on the varsity level.

“It was a smooth transition,” Slajchert said. “I’ve started all three years as well. I was really comfortable with our coach and teammates… It wasn’t too much of a change but year to year, I feel myself getting better.”

Slajchert is also helped by playing basketball year round. He plays AAU basketball for Earl Watson Elite, which allows him to travel and play against some of the best competition.

“There’s so many good players around the country,” Slajchert said. “You’re playing against a lot of different styles … Everyone plays a little bit different. In high school ball, you end up playing a lot of the same guys some of the time … but in AAU it’s all about competing and showing what you got because you don’t get too much practice time or time to prepare.”

“[Wes is] one of my favorite kids I have ever coached,” Ryan Silver, Slajchert’s AAU coach, said. “Terrific, high character young man, and I have coached hundreds of Division 1 players.”

Having experience with many players that have gone on to play college basketball, Silver has clear advice for Slajchert.

“Go to a school that is great academically, as well as athletically,” Silver said.

The former should be not be a problem for Slajchert. He currently holds offers from Colgate University and California Baptist University, and he has caught the attention of many other Ivy League schools.

“I definitely take care of my grades,” Slajchert said. “Most of my recruitment has been in the Ivy League so that is kind of a big thing for me. My dad went to Yale so he kind of instilled that into me.”

With his AAU basketball season approaching, Slajchert isn’t a prisoner of the moment.

“[I’m] staying focused and really trying to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to me because I’ve got an AAU team that plays all over the place and a lot of coaches get to see us and I just want to take advantage of all the opportunities I get,” Slajchert said.

While basketball isn’t everything for Slajchert, it remains a crucial part of his makeup.

“He has grown as a young man and player tremendously,” Silver said. “He is a leader, well respected on and off the court.”

“I’d like to say that basketball doesn’t define me, I’m a full man,” Slajchert said. “But at the same time, it’s a huge part of my life. I take so much from it, I’ve learned so much.. It really does mean everything.”

The mention of a specific scholarship offer was removed from a previous version of this article at the request of the athlete.

Edited by Maggie Gottlieb.