Totta recently surpassed 1,000 career points at Truman State University and leads the team in assists, among other statistics. She has also started in every game she has played since her freshman year, totaling 110 games.
Totta said while it was a little awkward and uncomfortable being the only senior recognized on Senior Day, she felt loved and grateful for her team and its efforts to make her feel appreciated.
“Considering how disappointed I’ve been just not being able to play, they made me feel super important and loved and made the day as fun as it could be considering everything,” Totta said. “It was another reminder of how selfless my teammates are for them to just make the day so great.”
Totta is currently out of play with a sprained ankle sustained in the latest matchup against Drury University.
To make Totta feel appreciated, teammates gave thoughtful gifts, made a scrapbook, spoke kind and supportive words, decorated the locker room with inside jokes and guard Katey Klucking gave up her starting position to let Totta start for her final time in Pershing Arena.
Klucking said with Totta starting in 110 games throughout her college career, it seemed only right to have her start on Senior Day, as well. Klucking said she wanted Totta to continue her starting record, but also didn’t want to take away freshman guard Alex Wiese’s first opportunity to start.
“I didn’t necessarily need to start and I knew that Sloane [has] done so much for the program and it was her Senior [Day],” Klucking said.
Klucking said she thought Totta deserved the spot because she has accomplished so much throughout the season and is just a good person overall. Totta was only on the court for a few seconds before returning to the sidelines.
“I couldn’t have thought of a better way to end my career,” Totta said. “I’ve just been so grateful for the way that it ended.”
As the sole senior on the team, Totta unquestionably fills a leadership role on the team. Head coach Theo Dean said she is often seen as the coach on the floor.
Dean said Totta has been with the program for as long as he has, so she could likely teach many offensive and defensive plays on her own.
“She’s a calming effect for her teammates,” Dean said. “She’s seen every opponent more than anyone else on our roster and knows exactly what to expect from the opponents and also some of the tough environments that we play in while on the road. She understands the grind of the season and also what to do in order to make sure you’re playing your best basketball in February and March.”
Klucking said Totta does a good job of taking on all the facets of the leadership role, which is usually split between multiple seniors. In addition to leading the team in scoring and assists, Totta is the team’s leader in communicating with teammates and ensuring everyone understands what’s going on, Klucking said.
Klucking said despite Totta being on the bench for half the game against Drury and the game against Southwest Baptist University, she was able to direct players on where to go and which plays to look out for.
Off the court, Totta is still a great communicator and friend who’s not afraid to be honest, Klucking said.
“She’s not afraid to tell us what we need to hear in any moment, and we don’t take offense to it because it’s coming from Sloane,” Klucking said. “I’m only a sophomore and sometimes you need Sloane Totta to come and tell you to chill out, and it actually really helps.”
Totta said a large part of the spirit and culture on the team starts with coach Dean, who took over the head coach position this season after serving as the assistant coach for the past three years. She said he’s always promoting an environment of fun and bonding. While being successful is always a priority, Dean understands that there’s more to the team than just a desire to win, Totta said.
“He’s just helped our team bond so much with the culture that he has created,” Totta said. “My teammates, too. Everyone on the team has been so selfless and I think that’s made our team. It’s just one of the best teams I’ve been on and one of the most fun seasons I’ve had.”
Totta said Dean has had a large influence on her basketball career and making her successful. She said he always knows what to say, whether it’s about her performance on the court or her self confidence. She said she has never had a coach like Dean who is patient and trusting in his team.
“He has so much confidence and assurance in himself and his team, and I lack sometimes in confidence so it’s been really great to go into a game with his ability to be so cool, calm and collected while I’m freaking out on the inside,” Totta said. “It’s really nice because he’s the stable rock.”
She said Dean being a constant throughout the rollercoaster of college basketball has been instrumental for her.
“Her mom calls me The Sloane Whisperer,” Dean said. “We just have a great player-coach relationship, and, because we’ve gone on this four-year journey together, we really understand each other. We know what drives each other and I know which buttons of hers to push. But at the same time, I know how great she wants to be in all areas of life, but especially in basketball.”
Dean said it all goes back to the amount of time he has worked with Totta in the gym, but also the important conversations they have had off the court that created a mutual sense of trust.
Klucking said it is obvious that Totta and Dean are always on the same page.
“He’s definitely The Sloane Whisperer,” Klucking said. “Because you can tell that they have such a great friendship. He’s not just her coach. They have a friendship where he can say anything to Sloane, and Sloane can say anything to him, and they won’t get offended because they trust each other on that level.”
Totta said she chose to play college ball at Truman because she saw it as a place where she could continue to grow and improve herself.
“I wanted to become the best basketball player I could be,” Totta said. “I wanted to be a high achiever in school. I just felt like this basketball program had systems in place to help me become the best version of myself that I could be.”
Speaking to the ways Truman holds its athletes to a higher standard than other schools, Totta pointed to the study tables the program provides and the rules, like being required to sit in the first two rows in class.
Totta said Truman’s basketball program has given her that ability to flourish, from growth in basketball skills and mentality to learning how to become a better teammate and leader.
Totta said she thinks her passion for basketball comes from it being an outlet through which she can constantly improve and be the best she can be.
“I just think it’s so fun,” Totta said. “I love playing basketball. You can always improve and I think that’s what I love about it. There’s always something to work on.”
She said basketball has also been a source for many life lessons, like commitment and friendship. Totta recalled missing childhood birthday parties and sleepovers because of her commitment to the game. With many childhood teammates now being GLVC competitors, Totta said she has made many lifelong friends because of the game.
Totta said her first official team was in first grade. Because her father also coached basketball, Totta has spent many nights in the gym whether it be watching his team, playing for her own or just practicing with her father.
“In high school, between mine and my sister’s games and my dad’s coaching, we would have a game every single night, if not two or three. My poor mother has probably seen a million games in her lifetime.”
Totta said she’s had the most fun and is the closest with her team this year than any other at Truman. Each season, however, has had highs and lows, Totta said.
While individual games stick out as some of the highlights of her career, Totta said some lows would include the physically brutal preseason each year. Totta said her current ankle injury and missing some preseason games because of minor shin and calf injuries are some of the negative points in her personal career.
“Honestly, with any of these lows we look back at — like the mile and half that we had to run or the different things we had to do that seemed outrageous at the time — it’s just so fun to laugh about and say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we were up at 6 a.m. barfing on the turf and running forever,’” Totta said. “Those aren’t fun in the moment, but they’re definitely bonding situations that are hilarious to talk about later.”
Totta said her future plans include going to grad school at Truman and possibly becoming a graduate assistant.
Klucking said she thinks Totta has great coaching qualities and would make her successful in that position if she were to pursue it.
Dean said that it will be tough not having her on the court next season because she’s been a consistently good player all four years. He said, however, they have had early talks of her being a graduate assistant, and that he would be more than happy for that to happen.
“She’s a kid who puts the team first, in all facets, and does whatever she can to help the team win, whether that’s hitting the game-winning shot, making a great assist to her teammate or being the loudest cheerleader on the bench,” Dean said.