TUBA CITY — Sandy Slade, 41, is a professional ball handler and spends her time “conquering limitations by creating confidence” as she travels around the spinning world displaying her talents and skills before audiences at NBA basketballs arenas, high schools, clinics and conferences.
Slade spent several days in the community touring several schools including a stop at Greyhills Academy High School gymnasium for four shows on May 4-5. Slade from Corona, Calif., said that she enjoys her career, but is looking forward to retiring in the near future and falling back on her education to continue her influence on young people around the world.
Slade grew up in a small community of 500 people in northern Wisconsin. She spent a lot of time playing basketball with her brothers while growing up and she decided when she was 8 years old that she wanted to be a professional basketball player even though there were no such opportunities for girls at the time. She said that she told her parents what she wanted to be and they accepted the notion and told her “she can be whatever she wanted to become as long as she worked for it.”
A trip to a basketball game during one summer changed her dreams and her life. She saw a show given by a ball handler spinning the ball and dribbling around the court and that’s what she wanted to become. She started practicing when she got home spinning the ball on her fingers on one hand and then on the other. She also worked on her dribbling between her legs in circles and figures eights until she mastered the skills.
After years of practice, she was asked to perform for her high school. She was excited to think that finally after her many years of toll and labor, her talents would pay off. It was not to be. She said that people laughed at her routine and she was actually booed by some of her classmates.
She sat in her dressing room wiping tears from her eyes thinking that what she had wanted to be was disappointing and thought of giving up right there. After she got control of her emotions, she decided that those people would not derail her dreams and she continued to pursue her goals and spinning her way into the lives of others for good.
After playing college basketball at Fresno State University, she played professionally for a brief period when women’s basketball was starting up but did not pursue that road. Still, she continued to spin her way in the hearts of thousands and thousands of people around the world.
Slade starts her show with music and she dribbles the ball around, spins the ball on her finger and passes it around her back and between her legs all to the rhythm of the music. She then goes to a routine with two balls and does the same thing as she dribbles without breaking rhythm.
In between spinning the ball, dribbling and other skillful routines with hoops and pens, she talks about her life, her career, and her goals as a young girl with the audience. They are motivational excerpts to inspire the youth that they can do anything they want if they are willing to make the sacrifice.
Slade concludes her show spinning eight balls while sitting on the floor. She is able to do this by placing spinning balls on ink pens strapped to her ankles and legs. When she spins the last two on her index fingers, it is amazing to the audience to see eight balls spinning as she lies on the floor.
In the show for Greyhills Academy High School, she had some extra time left and she took on the “best” girl and boys shooters for a quick game of “horse.”
It was no contest. Slade sank the first seven shots she took and quickly put Jamie Farrell back in the bleachers to observe her game with Todd Tunney. It took a little longer, but Tunney couldn’t compete as he hit iron most of the time and Slade made the needed shots to win. It was a unique display of dribbling, spinning, and shooting for students to see.