The idea of Reid Travis playing for Duke in Tuesday’s opening-game showdown is not farfetched. Not once but twice Kentucky’s presumed team leader and double-double machine considered becoming a Blue Devil.
The first time was as a McDonald’s All-American out of high school in Minneapolis.
“Yeah, I really looked at them very seriously,” Travis said Sunday. “I took a visit there about a month before I ended up making my decision to go to Stanford. (I) did the whole process with them. Really liked it a lot. It’s a great school. But, ultimately, (I) decided to go to Stanford.”
Then earlier this year, Travis again considered moving to Duke as a graduate transfer.
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“Yeah, I was thinking of a lot of schools,” he said. “Definitely Duke was one that crossed my mind as well.”
If that opportunity arose, how could a player not look at Duke, Travis seemed to suggest.
“The tradition and the program speaks for itself,” he said. “I think I’d be naïve not to look in their direction when you try to make a decision like that.”
“But ultimately (I) ended up at Kentucky, but I have a lot of respect for what they do.”
Focus on defense
Kentucky goes into the season with the focus on defense, PJ Washington and Travis said. Of course, UK Coach John Calipari lamented the many straight-line drives that Transylvania got in the Cats’ first exhibition game.
Washington said that containing the dribbler will be “very critical” against Duke’s trio of freshman stars: Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett.
“Because I think all three of those guys can get to the rack at will,” he said. “We’ve just got to focus on retreating and get our hands up and knowing we’re going to have help-side defense.”
Travis echoed the sentiment about improving the team defense being a priority going into the season.
This meant “activity, talking, being in the right spots,” he said.
Cool with Duke
Washington pointed out that he knows Duke’s three star freshmen. He played with Reddish on a USA team this past summer. On that team, he played against Barrett. He said he has also played against Williamson.
“I know those guys and I know their games,” Washington said. “I’m pretty cool with them. And I believe I hosted a couple of them when they came on their visits.”
The two recruits that Washington played host to on visits to UK were Williamson and Reddish.
When a reporter jokingly asked why he wasn’t able to get the two to sign with Kentucky, Washington said, “I’m not a recruiter.”
Memory of Barrett
In a game against a Calipari-coached Team USA in the summer of 2017, Barrett scored 38 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. He led Canada to a 99-87 victory over Team USA.
When asked if being familiar with Barrett’s game will help on Tuesday, Calipari said, “Well, if he played like he did against us there, no, it doesn’t help. I mean, he was really good. . . . And I imagine he’s going to be that excited as he was to play the USA and win that game.”
Memory of Laettner
It seems every UK fan remembers where they were when Christian Laettner hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer for Duke against Kentucky in the 1992 East Region finals.
When asked where he was, Calipari recalled his UMass team losing to Kentucky two nights earlier. A technical foul on Calipari for being out of the coaches’ box was particularly helpful for Kentucky.
“I may have been mad enough that I wasn’t rooting for Kentucky (against Duke),” Calipari said as reporters laughed.
When asked if effervescent freshman Keldon Johnson was bouncing off the walls in anticipation of the opening game against Duke, Washington shrugged.
“Keldon’s bouncing off the wall every day,” he said, “so it’s normal with him.”
No lineup set
Calipari said he has not decided on a starting lineup. He said Travis and Washington deserved more time to play together.