YSU hires Slay as men’s assistant

YOUNGSTOWN — Jason Slay accepted an invitation nine years ago.

The then-23-year-old coach took the call from the West Virginia University Director of Basketball Operations. His name was Jerrod Calhoun.

Slay was an assistant coach at NCAA Division II West Virginia State, excited to learn how the Mountaineers conducted practices. He talked extensively to Calhoun, trying to find out more about WVU coach Bob Huggins, the Mountaineers and basketball in general. Slay and Calhoun developed a friendship.

“That’s where it all started,” Slay said.

This time, Calhoun called Slay to be his assistant coach at Youngstown State University — a call Slay gladly accepted. His hiring was officially announced Wednesday by YSU.

Slay, 32, spent the last two seasons at Virginia Military Institute. He spent the previous three seasons at East Tennessee State (2014-15), Tennessee State (2013-14) and Georgia Southern (2012-13), where he was the director of basketball operations for the Eagles staff.

He’s been recruiting with Calhoun around North Carolina and Virginia, and with YSU assistant coach Paul Molinari in Indiana and Chicago.

Slay, a Beckley, W.Va., native, wants to recruit new players, but must also familiarize himself with the current roster. He even took one of the YSU players to get a haircut with him on Wednesday.

“We have to recruit them and build a relationship with them as much as the guys we bring in,” Slay said.

He works with guards. At YSU, that’s Cameron Morse, Francisco Santiago, Latin Davis, Jeremiah Ferguson and Ryan Strollo.

Slay said Santiago needs to work on his shot a little bit more. Morse has to improve his ball handling and defense. That said, he wants to be there for all his guards — help them succeed.

“What can I do for them is my main concern,” Slay said. “If it’s rebounding for them in the middle of the night. If it’s getting up early in the morning. If it’s working on ball handling. If it’s working on shooting.

“Whatever they need from me right now, that’s the most important thing. What I’m trying to do later down the road, bring to the table things they can improve on.”

Slay improved his own status, leaving West Virginia State after four seasons. He took a paycut and became an assistant at Hargrave Military Academy, an elite prep school in Chatham, Va.

“It wasn’t about the money,” Slay said. “I needed to take a step, get away from Division II. Obviously it helped open up a lot of doors for me.”

He has his own connections, family ties that help him and his players.

His brother, Tamar Slay, played on the New Jersey Nets and Charlotte Bobcats, along with playing in Italy. His cousin, Ron, played in Italy.

Tamar works for the NBA Players Association.

“It’s tremendous,” Jason said. “Tamar is my best friend. We talk about everything. We’re both basketball junkies. Helped me out tremendously. Trying to help these guys to get to the next level because he’s so connected.

“It helps me and helps my players as well.”