UK Men's Basketball

Why Germany for Kentucky’s Reid Travis? A year to ‘get recovered.’

Kentucky’s Reid Travis: ‘This has been one of the best years of my life playing basketball’

Kentucky Wildcats senior forward Reid Travis spoke to the media about his emotions following the final game of his career, a 77-71 loss in overtime to the Auburn Tigers on Sunday, March 31, 2019, in the Elite Eight of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
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Kentucky Wildcats senior forward Reid Travis spoke to the media about his emotions following the final game of his career, a 77-71 loss in overtime to the Auburn Tigers on Sunday, March 31, 2019, in the Elite Eight of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

A second — and much less publicized — injury prevented former Kentucky player Reid Travis from working out for teams in the pre-draft period, which led to Monday’s announcement that he will play for a professional team in Germany next season, his coach/adviser said.

Travis will play for Medi Bayreuth, a team based in Bayreuth, Germany, a city of about 70,000 in northern Bavaria. The team plays in the highest level of German basketball, has an arena (Oberfrankenhalle) that seats 4,000 and official colors of black, lime green and pink.

“It came about rather quickly, from what I’ve been told,” said James Clark, who described himself as Travis’ shooting and player development coach. “I just think he wanted to go someplace where he could have a full year and get in a full year as far as playing wise. And get recovered.”

As was well documented, Travis sprained his right knee during Kentucky’s game at Missouri on Feb. 19.

Travis sat out UK’s next five games, then returned for the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments.

“To me, in my eyes, he came back a little too early,” Clark said before adding, “but I’m not a doctor. But I’ve worked with him over a year, now, and I know his body.”

By trying to alleviate pressure on his right leg upon returning to game action, Travis developed a stress fracture in his lower left leg “to where he was feeling pain,” Clark said. “Now, he could have run up and down the floor. He could have jumped. But every time he did something, his movements were painful.”

Upon returning to the rotation, Travis averaged 32.2 minutes in the final six games he played. Doctors advised Travis not to work out for NBA teams in the pre-draft period, Clark said.

Travis played for the Atlanta Hawks’ entry in the NBA’s summer league in Las Vegas. He averaged 12.6 minutes, 4.2 points and 4.0 rebounds.

“He had not played basketball in three months,” Clark said of the summer league experience. “So it’s putting him in a difficult situation. He had a pretty good summer league (showing) flashes of what he could do. This German team saw something that they liked in him.”

Clark did not argue with the assumption that Travis sees playing in Germany as a first step toward the goal of being an NBA player.

“Nobody was knocking down our door for the NBA this year,” Clark said. “So he said, ‘This is a great option for me to go to right now, get a year under my belt.’

“Reid is an NBA player,” Clark added. “That’s without a doubt. It’s just unfortunate that the NBA executives and GMs did not get to see Reid perform in the summer. You would have thought all the stuff Reid had performed at Stanford and (at) Kentucky for the one year should have catapulted him into ‘OK, we know what he can do.’”

In tweeting about Travis signing with the German team, UK Coach John Calipari called it a “path to his ultimate goal.”

Clark, who said he has worked with such former UK players as Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe and Keldon Johnson, questioned Travis’ decision to come to Kentucky as a graduate transfer. The transfer came after he entered, then withdrew his name in the 2018 NBA Draft.

“If you want me to be quite frank, I thought Reid didn’t need to go to Kentucky,” said Clark, who described himself as a Kentucky fan. “It was a great fit for him. But I thought the body of work he did at Stanford was good enough for him to get into the NBA.

“Then going to Kentucky was a year he could have been in the NBA. But Reid chose his path, and we were all excited for him to go that path.”

Clark suggested Travis’ NBA position would be “a stretch four,” which is a power forward who can also threaten defenses as a perimeter shooter. During his foray into the 2018 NBA Draft, Travis was advised to improve as a perimeter shooter. He did not take a three-point shot in his first two seasons for Stanford, then made 18 of 62 (29 percent) in his final two seasons for the Cardinal. For UK last season, he made seven of 26 (26.9 percent), which included two of 14 after Dec. 22.

“He’s been working diligently to improve his outside shot, and be more consistent with it,” Clark said. “I don’t think his outside shot needs any kind of fix. He just needs to be consistent with it.”

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