UK Men's Basketball

A pre-dawn encounter with an armadillo? This UK player’s ‘mission’ knows no bounds.

Reid Travis on being a veteran presence on UK’s 2018-19 basketball team

A three-year captain at Stanford before graduating and transferring to Kentucky, Reid Travis says leadership comes naturally.
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A three-year captain at Stanford before graduating and transferring to Kentucky, Reid Travis says leadership comes naturally.

A telling story about Reid Travis involves his habit during his AAU days of going on pre-dawn jogs, and once sort of going one-on-one with an armadillo.

Morning had not broken when Travis went on these jogs. He was in Orlando, Fla., for one especially memorable jog. His team, the Howard Pulley Panthers, was playing in the AAU National Championships.

“And there was like an armadillo that actually came out behind me,” Travis said. “Out from the swamp area where we were.”

Travis had never seen an armadillo.

“Never, never,” he said. “I didn’t have a clue what it was. I had to look it up, and I guess that’s what I saw.”

On another one of these pre-dawn jogs, this time in Dallas, Travis got lost.

See behind the scenes clips of players posing and interacting for Herald-Leader photos during University of Kentucky men's basketball photo day.

“I went down a road and was kind of in my zone (wearing) my headphones,” he said. “Didn’t know what was going on.”

Rene Pulley, the team director of the AAU team, was unaware that Travis regularly jogged 2 miles in the pre-dawn darkness until he overheard other players talking about it. Pulley was not amused. He was alarmed. “I thought he was over-working himself,” he said.

AAU teams typically play multiple games in a day or night. The concern was Travis might be physically spent before the end of play.

Pulley came to accept the extra jogging, and even admire Travis for doing it.

“When you have a kid who has a mission, sometimes you don’t want to get in his way,” Pulley said. “It lets you know he’s a born leader and believes in excellence.”

Of course, Kentucky is counting on Travis to lead its team to excellence.

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Travis credits his father for instilling a desire to go beyond what is expected. His father, a retiree in Minnesota’s public school system, works as a volunteer at De La Salle High School in Minneapolis.

“The head coach made the mistake of giving me the keys,” Nate Travis said with a chuckle.

Although team practices were scheduled for 6 a.m., Reid Travis and his father would arrive more than an hour early.

“He worked out a full sweat before the first guy walks in,” Nate Travis said. “He takes everything to that level.”

The elder Travis linked the early-morning jogs to his son’s desire to excel.

“His dedication to playing his game on the highest level,” Nate Travis said. “He really takes it to another level. It goes back to his academics.”

Of course, Reid Travis came to UK this summer as a graduate transfer with a degree from Stanford.

“You can talk it and show him people who have been successful, and just talk till the sun goes down,” Nate Travis said.

The leadership that Travis exhibits for this Kentucky team will not include pre-dawn jogs nor, presumably, armadillos.

At least in part, the early-morning jogs were a product of the relative laissez faire approach to pre-game preparation in AAU basketball.

“In AAU basketball, there’s no pre-game shoot-arounds or anything like that,” Travis said. “You go to the complex, maybe warm up for five minutes, and then you play.

“But, for me, that wasn’t enough. So I would always try to go on a jog early morning, come back to the hotel, eat breakfast, shower and then we’d go off to the complex.”

College basketball, most especially at Kentucky’s level, includes plenty of attention to pre-game preparation. Travis learned this in his four seasons at Stanford.

“They do it for you ...,” he said. “You get to college and those things are kind of taken (care of) for you. You’re well warmed up by the time the tip happens.”

About this series

This is the sixth in a series of 13 stories featuring members of the 2018-19 University of Kentucky men’s basketball team. Watch for all 13 in the coming days in the Herald-Leader and on Kentucky.com.

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