Derrick Echols II Is Trailblazing A New Path For High School Sports

Joey LeMaster, Staff Writer

This story was reported on and written for the Journalism 298: Special Topics course. 

It’s crazy when you take in where life can take you. Originally, your dream was to become a doctor but suddenly, you’re training to become a firefighter. You thought your dream school was a big-time university but suddenly you realize you prefer the community college lifestyle. You never really know where life is going to take you. However, that is one of the most exciting aspects of the journey of life.


Derrick Echols II is someone who takes that to heart. He is currently a student attending Mississippi State University. He originally had dreams of playing basketball in the NBA or at least playing Division One basketball. But, during his time in high school, he realized playing basketball wasn’t his dream anymore. That’s when Echols II decided to pick up a camera and start making some highlight reels for some Illinois high school basketball athletes. That is when the Sloche brand was created.

Derrick Echols’s II being interviewed.

“So initially it was basketball, like just playing basketball,” Echols II said. “I always had my eyes set on it. Ever since fourth grade, I was like, “I’m going to play in the NBA or at least play D1 and see wherever that might takes me. I might become a coach or something. And then my junior year of high school, which was 2017-2018, that’s when I was just like I don’t love this anymore. Then I gave it up, picked up the camera, and rolled with it. Then, I don’t think I really understood that I could do this for a living until a year or two in.”


The change in dreams may have been the best thing to happen to him. His Instagram account, @Slocheofficial, has 82.1k followers. His TikTok page, also called @Slocheofficial, has 118.2k followers. And his Youtube account, Sloche, has 30.3k subscribers. The Instagram account used to just be high school scores and highlight reels. Now it consists of Illinois high school players’ commitments/big news, Illinois high school LAX scores, and updates about the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Bears, plus so much more. However, the Youtube account is dedicated to the Illinois high school basketball tapes. 


Doing something within the sporting realm is something Echols II always knew he wanted to do. Before coming up with the Sloche Brand, Echols II worked as a lot attendant at a Jewel Osco. Working that job showed him how much he disliked working the nine to five lifestyle. This helped motivate him to work harder on the Sloche Brand. He worked so hard on creating a big brand that he was able to use it to get out of working at Jewel Osco.


“It was probably 2018. I worked at Jewel Osco as a lot attendant,” Echols II said. “I was pushing carts and I was like dang, this sucks. I wanted to quit it was terrible, I’m not going to lie. Then I came to a point where Team Rose, Derrick Rose’s AAU organization, hit me up saying, “We have an opportunity for you to fly out to Vegas if you want to come”. I originally realized at that moment that I wasn’t going to be able to just take off of work. With how Jewel Osco works you weren’t going to be able to just take off, especially at that time. I had already taken off July 4 and other dates. So I had to decide to go with them and have to quit or stay and skip out on an opportunity like that. So I obviously took the first option and went out to Vegas. I put in my two weeks’ notice and I filmed Jalen Green and all of them and I saw there was a future here. The video I did for him blew up, it got like 100,000 views and before that, I never cracked 1,000 views a video on youtube and I was like wow, there’s a future here. So I quit my job then and ever since then I’ve been self-employed.”


Sloche’s most viewed Youtube video now has 2.3 million views. He’s had one more video crack the one million mark. It’s quite the accomplishment, but you won’t see Echols II boast too much about it. He’s too focused on tackling his next goals rather than focusing on the past. It’s a great mentality to have overall. However, with all of the work and tasks he has, it’s quite understandable why he is so focused on the present and has that mentality. 


Keeping up with NBA or NFL scores is a rather easy task. You can google the score of a game and multiple sporting outlets will have live updates for the scores. In spite of that, it is not that easy to get live updates for high school sports. It takes time and effort to find information for each game. Echols II puts a lot of effort into finding those scores. Mainly, he likes to thank his Sloche family for helping him out. 


“Bro, it’s definitely difficult,” Echols II said. “But, when you view it as fun like I want to know the scores just as much as my followers do. So it’s not really hard, it’s difficult finding the right information about these scores and the updates. The whole Sloche family comes together and we do it all together. And when I say family, I don’t just mean the people that work for Sloche, I mean all of the followers as well. They keep me posted and we just work together. We put it out together and they help make my life really easy. 

Derrick Echols II with some of his Sloche family at the State Farm Center.

Keeping up with multiple sports throughout the whole state is no easy task. Echols II likes to give credit to his team and the Sloche family for being able to keep up with scores. Nevertheless, it’s his hard-working ethic that got him where he is today. Many have pointed it out, including Emily Driessen.


Driessen is a teacher at South Elgin High School. She only had one class with Echols II. Despite only having one class, she saw how good of a student Echols II was and how great his work ethic is as well.


“His drive,” Driessen said. ”Derrick is a very intrinsically motivated individual who knows what he wants and is willing to put the work in to achieve it. It is a very admirable quality, especially seeing students possess it! Definitely wish more students had that quality!”


Driessen was able to see Echols II’s work ethic inside the classroom. However, she wouldn’t see his work ethic for his camera work until he was outside of the classroom. She didn’t understand the Sloche page at first. But, she did see how much he cared about his camera work when she saw him at school athletic events.  


“I don’t remember when he first brought up the Sloche page but I remember his passion for videoing athletic events and how often I would see him at school,” Driessen said. “He would sit on a rolling chair on the baseline during high school contests catching as much film as possible in order to create the highlight reels. From seeing what he did at our athletic events at the high school or the highlight clips he made for his peers, I knew he was heading down a successful path and I wasn’t surprised at all. The best part and I am sure he gets this too, is having students come show me the highlight clip of themselves that Derrick has made for them. The pure joy and excitement athletes have about how Derrick has featured their athletic ability or team is one of the best things to see.”


High school is where the camera was first pulled out. While making all of these tapes and traveling to other schools, Echols II soon realized how great it was to record high school sports. One thing that stuck out was the passion from the crowd. The electricity was passion was almost unseen. Plus, he would soon find out the legality issues of the NBA & college and soon realized how much easier it was to do high school sports.


“I think it’s just better to highlight high school in general because in professional sports you’re dealing with the legal environment of it in terms of copyright, you gotta know someone to do this, college is the same way,” Echols II said. “College is a little more lenient but, it’s just so many politics up there and I was like you know what, instead of having to deal with that let me just stay where I’m at right now and highlight what I have at my disposal at this moment. High school sports have been that. It’s been so much easier and much more convenient and the fans. And we all say, at least I believe, that college basketball is better than the NBA because the environment’s better and it’s the same way for high school. High school is almost better than college to some extent. It’s because the fan culture is so much more invested in the sport and I feel like that was an opportunity that I can tap into for sure.”


The passion for high school sports is one of the things that drives the passion of Sloche’s fans and their fanbase. There is just as much hype when “Sloche” walks into the gym as when their school’s team hits a clutch shot. Driessen recited a time when some of her students were freaking out just because their school was featured on Sloche’s Instagram account. 


“I currently teach freshmen at the high school who do not personally know Derrick Echols,” Driessen said. “But, many of the freshmen boys who I teach were so excited when one of the boys on the basketball team made a buzzer-beater that was featured on his page. I heard about it for days! I think that this was what Derrick was trying to accomplish, spreading the word through video on local programs and highlighting the talent we have in Illinois! And I think we can all agree, that he has accomplished this!”


Echols II’s content leaves an impact on his fans. However, there’s more of an impact he’s left on the world than just his content. His brand and social media accounts have inspired people to pick up their cameras and start recording videos. One of those people is Robert Perry. Perry is currently a senior at Burlington Central High School. He currently has an Instagram account with the username Rp_shoots. Perry listed Sloche as one of the reasons as to why he started to get into photography and filming.


“Yes, starting out I looked up to Sloche and what he was doing for the schools and players around the area,” Perry said. “I originally started out as a basketball mixtape video creator because I wanted to be just like him. Sloche has done some very great work for people I know.”


Next school year, Perry will be attending the University of Western Illinois. There he will be looking to make a bigger name for himself and his social media account. 


“Yes, I am attending Western Illinois University next fall to compete on their cross country and track team,” Perry said. “Along with that, I will be joining the athletic program’s digital media team. I plan on using this next stage to expand RP_Shoots to more than just the local area.”


An impact like this is something Echols II was hoping for when he created the Sloche account. He is very thankful for his fans and the love they show for him. He likes to show the same love back, especially during interactions with the fans. He cherishes these moments and feels like he has interactions with fans that other influencers struggle to have.


I feel like it’s something you can’t mimic with any other account,” Echols II said. “I have a different connection with these fans or my family as I like to call them. It’s amazing and it’s natural. It doesn’t feel like you’re talking to some big entity. It’s always fun and it’s relaxed.” 


It’s been five years since Echols II started the Sloche brand. Echols II has already had so much success in those five years, but he is still chasing even more success. He’s not sure what he wants to do yet as his next step. He’ll figure it out along the way. It’s just hard when you don’t know what to expect next. 


“I don’t know,” Echols II said. “Two years ago I said I would be doing this, this, and that. I hoped I had this amount of followers or this amount of likes. But now I always like to say, I don’t know. That’s the best part because you really don’t know. Especially with this field being relatively new, we’re almost like the trailblazers right now. We find out what’s going to be next. So whatever is next is going to be amazing. I trust in gods will and his plan for me so I’m excited about it and I ask that he prepares me for it.”


There is a lot of uncertainty ahead, but there is certainly a lot of support for him from his family and friends. Echols II will write the next chapters in his story, but his high school teacher offers him some advice as he goes on in life.


Keep pursuing your dreams,” Driessen said. “Continue to utilize your personality, connections, and work ethic to see your dreams and goals come to fruition!”

Derrick Echols II getting some recordings outside.