It’s official! Reid Travis has committed to Kentucky and now the fun can begin. UK’s absolutely stacked roster will get extra practice time and will face elite competition in the Bahamas in August, but when the actual season starts in November (against Duke) no team will be deeper or more talented than Kentucky. The addition of Travis adds depth in the frontcourt but there’s a chance he could be UK’s best player next season.
His Game: Honestly, to start think of P.J. Washington’s freshman season. Washington was more versatile in high school but his outside game didn’t develop in year one and was forced to live on the block. It worked out well for Washing, but Travis has been doing it for four seasons at the college level. It’s not a perfect comparison and the players differ in a variety of ways, but for starters it’s fair to say that Travis is a bruiser like Washington that should dominate the interior.
But, Travis is more tenacious. He won’t be outworked and his energy and effort is one of the best I’ve seen from a college basketball player. He’s not the fastest or most athletic player, but man, he’s strong. I remember the first time I saw him at the NBPA Top 100 Camp and I was blown away. He was raw but he was the type of kid you wanted on your team. He just annoyed the more talented players so much that he’d eventually get the better of them. Now his talent has caught up to his tenacity and he would have been considered one of the better upper-classmen players in college basketball. Probably the preseason PAC-12 Player of the Year. Now he’s on UK’s team.
The best part of Travis’ game, which feed of his tenacity, is his rebounding. He’s a monster on the glass and I’d almost guarantee he leads UK in rebounds next season. Travis has 758 career rebounds, which 20th all-time in UK history. The only player to play for John Calipari at UK that had more was Patrick Patterson (791). There’s a chance Travis breaks Dan Issel’s school record of 1,078 rebounds.
Travis’ outside game has improved over the years, and he will take another step forward this upcoming season, but his bread and butter is inside. Travis shot nearly 30 percent from three last season, but took just 61 shots behind the arc and made 18. I would expect those numbers to be similar this upcoming season and Travis will likely only shoot if he’s wide open from outside. Teams will continue to load the paint and dare UK to shoot from the perimeter. The Cats having Quade Green, Jemarl Baker, Tyler Herro will help, but if Travis is left alone fans should feel comfortable.
Travis’ free-throw shooting numbers have improved every season and while he started as a 46 percent shooter his freshman season, last year he was at 67.5 percent. If he can get that up to 70 percent there will be no reason to be concerned. He’s not automatic from the line but 70 percent is good enough. P.J. Washington was 60.6 percent during his freshman season.
Defensively Travis will have a tough time guarding smaller defenders at the top of perimeter, but that’s not unusual for bigs. The best part about having Travis is the Cats will have muscle on the block and won’t be pushed around inside. SEC basketball is known as bully-ball for a reason and the Cats fell victim to more physical teams last season. That won’t happen this year. No team will have more muscle on the frontline. Travis isn’t a shot-blocker but hopefully Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery can help protect the rim. That may be one area where UK is somewhat lacking next season.
We’ll all learn more about Travis’ game during the Bahamas trip in a month and a half, and that will give Calipari ample time to learn how his players mesh and gel together. Travis is a team-first player that won’t worry about minutes and the reason he picked UK was to win a national championship. UK fans will love his attitude one an off the floor.
Watch him go for 29 and 10 against USC.