Kentucky’s most experienced men’s basketball player faces the same learning curve when it comes to mastering coach John Calipari’s system as his younger teammates.
However, Reid Travis has the added responsibility of leading the Wildcat underclassmen, many of whom could join him in next summer’s NBA draft. The Stanford graduate transfer has demonstrated the ability of excelling as a leader: he was a three-year Cardinal captain and twice earned All-Pac-12 first team honors.
Travis also picked up pointers this spring working out for several NBA clubs. He plans to hone his game while helping Kentucky chase a ninth national championship.
"I kind of feel like a freshman all over again in my own right as far as being here and fresh and still going through the system," the 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward said. "Little tidbits that I can give them here and there, I’m definitely going to do that and try and mold myself into that role."
Travis averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season with Stanford before graduating this spring with a degree in science, technology and society. He left as one of three players in program history with at least 1,400 points and 700 rebounds in fewer than 100 career games.
The Minneapolis native is now with a Kentucky team that returns sophomore forward PJ Washington (10.3 points, 5.7 rebounds), guard Quade Green (9.3 points, 91 assists) and 6-11 Nick Richards. Calipari is also breaking in another highly ranked recruiting class, one the coach said has already shown Travis how much size matters.
"There are times when he’s struggled to get the ball in," Calipari said of Travis last week. "I said, ‘You know, of all the tape I watched, I never saw you miss a shot like that. Tell the guys why you’re missing some of those.’
"He said, ‘Length.’ Like, all of the sudden you’re out there and everybody is really long and big. So I said it’s the best thing for him."
At the same time, Calipari said Travis has used his size against 6-10 freshman E.J. Montgomery in practice. During a recent open workout, Travis showed the quickness and positioning his coach expects on both ends of the floor.
Those kind of challenges are why Travis chose to play his final season at Kentucky, where Calipari has developed 19 lottery picks and 26 first-rounders among 35 NBA draft selections.
"I tested the waters this spring and worked out for five teams, and the feedback I got was great," said Travis, who’s working on his perimeter game. "The things I needed to work on, I felt like coming here was the best place for me to showcase that with the work day in and day out to put myself in a better position for the draft next year."
Travis and the Wildcats will get their first chance to play together Wednesday against the Bahamas national team in one of four exhibition games over eight days in the islands. Kentucky returns to the Bahamas for the first time since 2014, where the Wildcats developed chemistry and a platoon system that keyed a remarkable 38-0 start before a Final Four loss to Wisconsin.
Expecting similar dominance is asking a lot given this roster’s varied experience. That doesn’t change the usual expectation of winning the national championship, and Travis’ size, success and seasoning provides a good starting point for the Wildcats.
Washington for one is eager to see how they’ll work together.
"I feel like our games complement each other, we do a lot of the same stuff," the 6-8 sophomore said. "A lot of teams can’t double us down low because if you double him, he’s just going to pass it to me, or the other way around. Just being able to play with him should be good."
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