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Ex-Shelby star A.J. Slaughter tries to make point with Orlando Magic

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Shelbyville native A.J. Slaughter will get another chance at the NBA next week, when he suits up with the Orland Magic’s Summer League team and tries to show he can make the move to point guard.

By Josh Cook

In a couple of weeks, A.J. Slaughter will be trying to make a point in Orlando, Fla.

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That statement: He can play point guard in the NBA.

Slaughter, a former Shelby County High School and Western Kentucky University basketball standout, has been a shooting guard most of his career. However he’s hoping to show the Orlando Magic – for whom he worked out last week and then received an invitation to play for its summer league team – and other NBA teams that he can play the point.

“I played two [shooting guard] in college, now I’m trying to show NBA teams I can handle the ball and make the right passes,” Slaughter said Monday afternoon after a workout at Collins High School. “I’ve always been able to shoot the ball. Now I want to show I can convert to a point guard at the next level.”

This will be Slaughter’s second time playing in an NBA Summer League. He previously suited up for the Detroit Pistons in 2010 after going undrafted out of Western Kentucky. Slaughter averaged 3.6 points in five games with the Pistons that summer but didn’t make the team’s training-camp roster. He has gone on to play professionally overseas during the past three years.

“It’s been great, it’s been amazing,” said Slaughter, who played in Italy his first year, Belgium his second and France in 2012-13. “I get a chance to see the world, meet new people and play the game I love, and get paid for it.”

Some of the highlights, Slaughter said, have been visiting the Eiffel Tower as well as Russia and China. The only drawback has been, he said, “Being away from your family. Sometimes it gets lonely being by yourself.”

Although it has been difficult at times off the court, on the court Slaughter has thrived. He’s coming off his best pro season, playing for Cholet in France. Slaughter averaged a team-best 13.5 points per game and a team-high tying 3.9 assists. He shot 57.1 percent from 2-point range, 42.9 percent from 3-point range and 76.7 percent from the free-throw line.

He started the season playing shooting guard, but when the team’s point guard was released, Slaughter, who stands 6 feet 3, was moved to the point. That seemed to work out very well. He was at his best in the second half of the season, averaging 15.6 points and 4.9 assists during his team’s final 16 games.

“Hopefully it will help me in the future, showing teams I can play the point,” said Slaughter, who’ll turn 26 on Aug. 3.

He began doing that last week when he, along with 19 other free agents, worked out for the Magic in Orlando.

“It went real well,” Slaughter said. “The GM told my agent that he thought I was one of the best ones there. He said I really impressed the coaching staff.”

Then last Thursday he got the call from the Magic inviting him to play for its summer league team.  

“God is Great!!!! Just got the call that I made the Orlando Magic’s Summer League Team,” Slaughter Tweeted that day.

The Magic finished 20-62, the worst record in the NBA, last season. Orlando, which has the No. 2 pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, is coached by Jacque Vaughn, a former standout point guard at Kansas who was Slaughter’s coach at the NBA’s pre-draft camp in Portsmouth, Va. in 2010.

“The Magic said I really ran the show down there,” Slaughter said. “They were really impressed with my point guard skills.”

Orlando has only one true point guard on its roster, veteran Jameer Nelson. The other guards on the Magic’s roster include former University of Kentucky player Doron Lamb, who Slaughter said the team may try to make into a point guard, Slovenian Beno Udrih, E’Twaun Moore and wing Arron Afflalo.

The Magic reportedly have been in discussions about trading Afflalo to the Los Angeles Clippers for former Kentucky star Eric Bledsoe, but, pending that, appear likely to take a point guard with their second-round selection in Thursday night’s draft.

As of Tuesday afternoon, nbadraft.net had Orlando taking Indiana shooting guard Victor Oladipo with the second pick and selecting Louisville’s Peyton Siva in the second round (51st overall). (FYI: One of Slaughter’s Cholet’s teammates, 7-foot-2 Rudy Gobert is projected as the 27th pick overall by the Denver Nuggets).

Slaughter’s first summer league game will be at 11 a.m. July 7, when the Magic play the Boston Celtics (that game, and all of the summer league games will be broadcast on NBA-TV).

“I just want to go into the summer league and do the best I can,” he said.

Slaughter has signed to return to France (with Chalon), but he has an NBA option in his contract that allows him to sign with an NBA team until July 25.

“I think I can play in the NBA,” he said. “I’ve just been looking for the opportunity to show that I belong.”

Slaughter will get a chance to prove his point in early July.