Thursday, July 18, 2024

Montour, Shippensburg grad Dustin Sleva’s European basketball adventure has taken him to France and Germany. Next stop? Spain’s ACB League – Pittsburgh Union Progress

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Dustin Sleva has spent the past five seasons playing basketball in Europe, an experience he calls life-changing.

Now, after playing for teams in France and Germany, Sleva is ready for another change, that being the challenge of playing in a league regarded by many as the second best in the world behind only the NBA.

Sleva, a former standout at Montour High School and the all-time leading scorer and rebounder at Shippensburg University, recently signed with UCAM Murcia of Liga ACB, the top division of Spanish basketball. A 6-foot-8 forward, Sleva will take the court this fall for UCAM Murcia (Murcia is located in southeastern Spain), which last season finished ninth in the 18-team league. Barcelona won the title for the third season in a row. Liga ACB clubs can roster only two Americans, so it’s a difficult league to crack. UCAM Murcia will also compete in the Basketball Champions League, which features many top teams from throughout Europe.

“This is a huge step for me and my career,” Sleva said Wednesday from France. “The Spanish league is the second-best domestic league in the world. It gives me the opportunity to showcase my talents in a different market.”

He already did a tremendous job of showcasing those talents in France and Germany, countries that also have strong domestic leagues. Sleva played his first four seasons and some of his fifth with Paris, a run that saw him take part in the team’s debut season in 2018-19. Sleva averaged a career-high 14.1 points per game in 2020-21 when he played a big role in the team’s promotion from the second to first division. He averaged 11 points a game when Paris made its LNB Pro A debut.

However, Paris hired a new coach prior to the 2022-23 season. Sleva saw his minutes decrease and ultimately was sent on loan midseason to Lowen Braunschweig of the Bundesliga, the top tier of German basketball. Sleva responded with one of his best seasons yet, averaging 14.4 points and a career-high six rebounds over 20 games.

Sleva, 27, said he had multiple offers to play for teams in France and Germany, but he couldn’t pass up on playing in Spain.

“I started in the second division in France. To make it to the first division there, Germany and Spain, it’s tough to do. I’ve had a lot of luck and a lot of hard work to get there. I’m excited to go and compete,” said Sleva, a 2014 Montour graduate.

The NBA’s Cam Johnson (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) and T.J. McConnell (Chartiers Valley) are shoe-ins as being the most successful graduates of WPIAL schools currently playing professional basketball, but Sleva might be third on that list considering the success he has had at the top levels of European basketball. Sleva could join them in the NBA someday, too. He actually played with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Summer League last year, and said he still has aspirations of making a regular-season roster.

“Of course. I never limit myself. My goal is to always play at the highest level,” said Sleva, who scored 2,071 points and grabbed 1,140 rebounds in his Shippensburg career.

While in France, Sleva played several times against Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 pick in last month’s NBA draft. Wembanyama, who previously played with Metropolitans 92 of LNB Pro A, is considered the top prospect to join the NBA since LeBron James.

“He’s tough,” Sleva said of Wembanyama, who was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs. “He’s listed as 7-4, but he might be even bigger than that. I think I pump faked him three times, and he was still there. His level of athleticism and how well he can move at his height is unbelievable. I think the biggest thing with him is not his offensive skills, but his defensive skills. He’ll be a defensive force first, and the offense will come later.”

Soon, Sleva could have a brother playing internationally. He said that his brother Dom signed with an agency in hopes of beginning a professional career overseas. Like Dustin, Dom was a standout at Shippensburg. He finished his Raiders career last season, but another Sleva brother is on the way. Drew Sleva, a recent graduate of Chartiers Valley High School, will be a freshman at Shippensburg this upcoming season.

For Dustin, playing overseas has been an amazing experience. It’s extended off the court, too. He now speaks fluent French and met his girlfriend in France.

“Overall, it’s been life-changing,” he said. “My grasp of the world is different. You kind of see how much you love Pittsburgh when you’re gone, but you realize how little it is when you leave there.”

Sleva said he will leave for Spain on Aug. 7. He is set to make his UCAM Murcia debut when the club hosts the Endesa Super Cup on Sept. 16-17. Heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid will take part, as well.

New country, same expectations for Sleva, whose life-changing journey seems to keep on getting better.



Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he’s currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.

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