What should Kentucky fans expect from Reid Travis? I asked Stanford beat writer R.J. Abeytia, who’s followed Travis’ career for the past four years.
“He’s an impressive person both on and off the court. Off the court, he’s got a real charisma. He’s incredibly thoughtful and smart and he is exactly what you want from an upperclassman and leader. He’s the first guy out on the court on game days taking extra shots. His willingness to put in time and work hard is pretty much unparalleled. He’s a guy that people rally around and want to be with.”
On the court, Travis’ numbers speak for themselves. He averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds last season and ranked in the top three in the Pac-12 in 10 categories. He had 16 double doubles — seven straight to end the season — and is one of only three players in Stanford basketball history with at least 1,400 points and 700 rebounds in less than 100 career games. As Abeytia noted, Travis’ work ethic really shows in free throw percentage, which improved from 48% his sophomore season to 68% last season.
So, if Travis is such a great player, why isn’t he waiting to hear his name called in the NBA Draft tonight? Like a certain player he’s about to share a frontcourt with, Travis went through the evaluation process and was advised to work on his three-point shooting before making the jump to the next level. So, he’s doing the next best thing and coming to Kentucky, where he can learn from the college coach who best prepares players for the NBA and compete for a national championship.
“With him particularly, I would say don’t put too much stock in connecting his NBA Draft status this year to his college level potential,” Abeytia said. “If he is healthy this coming season, he should play at an All-American level, certainly at an all-conference level. He should be up there in contention as an All-American…It’s fair for Kentucky fans to have high expectations.”
Speaking of the draft, it’s worth noting that Travis and likely No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton were the only players in the Pac-12 to finish in the top five in scoring and rebounding and Travis more than held his own in head-to-head matchups with the 7’1″ monster, averaging 21.5 points and 10 rebounds in two games vs. Arizona. As for his three-point shooting, it’s a work in progress. Travis averaged 29.5% (18-61) from behind the arc last year after attempting only one three in his previous three seasons. As you can see in the videos of his offseason workouts, the outside shot has been a major focus of his offseason workouts.
So, how will Travis fit in at Kentucky? He could share the frontcourt with PJ Washington, a player with whom he shares a lot of traits. Travis and PJ are of similar height and build (Travis is 6’8″ 245 lbs., PJ 6’7″, 236 lbs.), play the same style of bully ball, and both need to work on their outside shot. Abeytia believes Travis’ versatility will help the two coexist, noting how Stanford used him at multiple spots the past few years.
“I think Reid and/or PJ developing their outside shot is obviously going to be a big part of what happens, but having another guy out there who can be a back-to-the-basket player isn’t necessarily the worst thing because Reid is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. It’s not like he’s going to run down to the block and carve out that real estate and not be willing to move around.”
John Calipari’s best teams are known for their defensive prowess; Abeytia said that’s another area in which Travis hopes to improve this season, but he’s far from a liability.
“It’s not about any lack of willingness. I think he knows that one of the things, especially with the way the game is played today with 1-5 screens and switching being the tactic used the majority of the time, you’ve got to be able to step out and at least be able to play smaller guys without fouling. Try to be a solid, face up defender. I think Reid’s got some work to do in that regard.”
How will a 22-year-old college graduate fit in with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores? Abeytia said Travis, a three-year captain, already has the role of mentor/big brother down after guiding a freshmen-heavy squad at Stanford last season.
“Just from watching those guys work with him, I would expect Kentucky’s guys to be really comfortable having him out there,” he said. “As far as working with the team and blending with the team culturally, Kentucky’s going to be as happy with him in that regard as they are any other aspect of his game.”
Above all, Abeytia says Kentucky is getting a hard worker in Travis, recalling a conversation he had with the previous coaching staff a few years back.
“His work ethic is to the point where the previous coaching staff was concerned, healthwise, that he was spending too much time in the gym. He is legitimately one of those guys who has to be thrown out of the gym. I think that’s the most indicative thing I can say in terms of giving Kentucky fans an idea of what they’re in store for.”