Reid Travis has waited five years for the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. Based on his two outings so far, it’s been worth the wait. The best part? His coach couldn’t be prouder.
“He trained his whole life for this,” John Calipari said Saturday. “Before the last game, I just told him, you’ve been waiting for this your whole life. [Thursday] he was unbelievable, had eight of nine or whatever he did, 18 points, and [Saturday] he did well again.”
He finished as Kentucky’s leading scorer against Wofford Saturday afternoon, recording a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) while committing zero turnovers. Against Abilene Christian, his stat line was equally impressive: 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, nine rebounds and one assist. Calipari said Travis was so effective against Wofford, they wanted the ball in his hands “every time we needed a basket.”
His improvements and his success starts in practice, where Calipari says Travis is always “totally engaged.” When “outsiders” come in to watch a Kentucky basketball practice, they comment on Travis’ attentiveness, saying he never takes his eyes off of his coach. Calipari says he does have to get on him, but never for the same reason he gets on the team’s younger players.
“I’m on him like I am these young kids,” Cal said. “I just don’t have to as much because his is never effort – theirs is always effort. His is never effort.”
The compliments for Kentucky’s hardworking senior didn’t stop there.
“Let me say this, what a pleasure it’s been to coach him. He is truly professional in how he deals with everything, from training to weight training to keeping his body right to being where he’s supposed to on time,” Calipari said. “But it’s been – I’ve loved it… He’s helped us, but he’s helped himself in this. He’s really put himself in a great position.”
Travis’ reaction to Calipari’s praise was awesome.
“I think that is one of the kindest things Coach has ever said about me. It makes the work I do every day really mean something to hear him say something like that,” Travis said. “It’s kind of touching. It took a lot for me to come to Kentucky and decide to play another year of college basketball. [The reason] was nothing more than I wanted to play in games like this, and bring it every day and try to be my best.”
Without PJ Washington on the floor for the Tournament’s first two rounds, Reid Travis bounced back from an injury of his own in a big way. He’s repeatedly demonstrated how important of a role he plays for this team, but his performances in the post-season have only reinforced that idea. Now it’s time to get Travis back to his hometown, Minneapolis, for the Final Four – he’s been waiting forever.