Reid Travis: A look back at the Kentucky forward’s 2018-19 season
Of course, Kentucky basketball is all but synonymous with the NBA. One UK season serves as a springboard to having LeBron, K.D. and other celebrated pro players as peers.
Then there’s Reid Travis, who leaves for Germany next week to play professionally for what he hopes is only a one-year extension on preparation for NBA life. The only familiar name on his next team is former UCLA guard Bryce Alford.
“You can look at it two ways,” Travis said Thursday during a break from serving as a special guest at the Calipari Draft Academy. “You can be bitter and sulk and not enjoy the experience.”
Travis chose the other way.
“For me, it’s a great life experience,” he said. “I get to go over there, see a new culture (and) a different country, get to play basketball at a high level and get paid to do it. So there’s a lot of good things going my way.
“It’d be easy to sit here and look at it as a failure. But I don’t look at it like that.”
Travis termed next season in the highest level of German basketball as “another step in my journey” presumably to the NBA. “So I’m excited for it,” he said. “I think I’ll be able to put my head down and really just work hard. And hopefully, next year come (the NBA) summer league, be able to show something.”
Travis’ new team is based in Bayreuth, Germany, a city of about 70,000 in northern Bavaria. The arena (Oberfrankenhalle) seats 4,000 and the team’s official colors are black, lime green and pink. He said he signed with the team because — like Kentucky — it took pride in preparing players for the NBA.
“Lots of good talks with the coach,” Travis said. “That’s what sold me. He wants this to be a one-year deal. And that he can help me get to the next level. It’s not a deal where he wants to lock me in over there. We’re on the same page.”
Earlier this year, his father, Nate Travis, said, his son saw playing for Kentucky as a way of “solidifying himself as a prospect in the draft.”
But Travis added Thursday that he knew there were no guarantees, nothing automatic about the Kentucky-to-NBA basketball connection.
“Kentucky is not going to just mold you in, and you’re going to be an NBA player just because you played with Kentucky across your chest,” he said. “I’m just fine with that.
“To me, it was just getting better as a basketball player and better as a person is why I wanted to come here. I feel like I did that.”
Earlier this year, UK Coach John Calipari rejected the suggestion that Travis did not make marked improvement in the 2018-19 season, as did teammate PJ Washington. Travis “improved himself immensely,” Calipari said.
Travis mentioned several ways he improved while acknowledging that this was not always reflected statistically.
“I think the biggest thing is just my motor and athleticism was the biggest thing,” he said. “Losing weight at the start of the season, and just being able to compete against better players. It’s tough to kind of see on a stat sheet. But I know deep down I can feel it. I feel I’m a way better player than I did last year coming out of Stanford.”
Late-season injuries hampered Travis’ ability to make a direct move to the NBA. He sprained a knee at Missouri on Feb. 19. His shooting and development coach, James Clark, suggested Travis returned too soon, which resulted in a lower-leg injury that prevented him from working out for NBA teams in the pre-draft period.
Travis, who pronounced himself fully healthy, said he did not think he came back too soon. Doctors cleared his return, he said.
“They wouldn’t have sent me out there if I wasn’t ready to go,” he said. “In basketball and in sports, there’s guys battling injuries all across the board. I think if you go and talk to everyone in the NCAA Tournament, there’s something bugging somebody. . . .
“It was something I thought I could play through,” he added of leg injuries. “I was comfortable with that. I was willing to do that.”
Adding to the allure was the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first — and last — time. His Stanford teams never got a bid.
Plus, the Final Four was in his hometown of Minneapolis.
“They were going to have to cut my leg off to keep me from playing,” Travis said. “That was my decision all the way. It may have hampered me as far as pre-draft workouts and things like that. That was something I understood on the front end. And there’s really no regrets.”