Former Shippensburg University forward, Dustin Sleva cemented his name in the SU record books and is now entering his third season of what looks to be a promising career in professional basketball overseas.
The 2018 SU graduate is set to begin his third season as a member of Paris Basketball in France’s second division, Ligue Nationale de Basket Pro B, within the next few weeks.
In his tenure as a Raider, Sleva was a force to be reckoned with. His monumental four-year career consisted of various accomplishments, including becoming SU’s all-time leading scorer (2,071 points) and rebounder (1,140 rebounds). Additionally, he is only one of four players in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) history to total 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.
Sleva’s transition from college to pro ball has been a smooth one. While he is not totaling the same numbers as he did at SU, Sleva has been a reliable option off the bench for Paris. He has started in 18 of his 49 games played.
Sleva ultimately credits his smooth transition to his playing days at SU. He said Coach Chris Fite’s game plan is similar to that of a European team.
“Since Coach Fite played overseas for close to 10 years, I feel his experiences over there transitioned to his coaching style and I think that has really helped me,” Sleva said. “European style basketball is more team play than individual play and since we ran that at Ship, I already had some prior experience with it.”
Through his two-year professional career thus far, Sleva is averaging 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. On top of that, his .497 shooting percentage and his .405 three-point percentage have made him a valuable scoring option.
Despite his dynamic offensive capabilities, Sleva noted there are areas in which he is looking to improve on going into this season. His main area of focus is to remain healthy. He played all last season on an injured ankle.
In addition to his health concerns, Sleva said he is looking to improve on his defensive presence. Sleva has always been known for being dominant on the boards; however, he is searching to have a stronger defensive mentality. His improvements paid off as he earned defensive-team honors in the Pro-Am this summer.
With few struggles on the court, Sleva said the move from Pennsylvania to Paris has been the toughest part of his time overseas, but not for the reasons you may think.
Sleva credits himself for being an outgoing person, so getting acclimated with the French culture has not been an issue. However, living alone in a different country caused simple tasks to become major headaches.
Sleva recalls tasks such as getting WIFI, setting up bank accounts, and signing up for his mail service, to be daunting and confusing. He is grateful that he had teammates who were familiar with those items.
“I’m doing better now since I’ve been here for a while, but at first, things were really difficult,” he noted. “Since I didn’t know the language well, I had to ask my teammates for help, and I honestly felt bad doing that. That’s stuff you want to be able to do on your own.”
With his third season just weeks away, Sleva said he is eager to be back out on the court with his teammates, especially with COVID-19 coronavirus cutting last season short. Paris was only able to compete in 15 games. Sleva said he saw the cancellation coming before it was announced.
“After seeing Italy go on lockdown, I knew we were next,” he said. “I kept telling my teammates it was going to happen and sure enough, it did.”
As of right now, Sleva said the league will be back to its normal routine for the most part. A decision on fan attendance has yet to be determined. Either way, Sleva said he is prepared for anything.
“Whether it be no fans, some fans, or all fans, I’m ready to go,” he said.
Sleva kicks off his season with Paris on Sept. 15 and will look to build-off his already impressive young career.