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Favorite UK basketball player No. 2 understands what sacrifice means

Reid Travis (Jeff Houchin Photo)

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

I’ve said before that I’m a sucker for the underdog. It’s true, always have been. But I’m also a huge supporter of people who put others before themselves. People that are interested in making everyone else around them better — even if it costs them something. People that work hard for everything they get. Those types of people are pretty rare in today’s society.

So I realize in this “me first, make sure I get mine” society this selection may not be a popular opinion but at the end of the day you have to go with your heart. When a player gives up everything he has earned, sacrifices his own individual accomplishments and as the season progresses continues to give more and more of himself to win games you’ve got to give him his due. In this case his due is a spot as my second favorite player. Here’s why.

How often has a guy given up being an all-conference selection two years in a row in another Power Five conference and walked away from being the star player on another major college team to come in and play for UK just for the opportunity to potentially win a National Championship?

Did I mention that at his previous school he averaged almost 20 points per game and almost nine rebounds per game which was good enough for third in his league? He was also a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school and was ranked as high as No. 23 in the country in his recruiting class.

Of course you know I am talking about Reid Travis, last year’s graduate transfer from Stanford.
So who does that? What kind of player gives up the star role, the notoriety and the media attention at another Power Five school like Stanford to come and play as just another player for the University of Kentucky? Who sacrifices almost 20 points a game to be the guy that goes in and plays defense, grabs rebounds and directs traffic around the basket like a 6-8, 240-pound point guard?

A player that has a servant’s heart, but also loves to win, that’s who. A guy that has a servant leadership attitude in how he approaches the game and how he approaches life.

When Reid Travis was looking for another school to transfer to as a graduate student he said he was looking for new challenges, opportunities to improve his game and a different set of circumstances. He also wanted to experience basketball at its highest level. He found that at Kentucky. But he also found a little bit more. I’ll let him explain it. “I went to Trader Joe’s. That’s kind of where I like to go pick up some groceries on the weekend. I get in there and like five people started clapping,” Travis told Sporting News. “A grandma gave me a hug and said, ‘Thank you so much for coming,’ all that stuff. It was almost like I did a service to her, deciding to come here, that’s how happy she was. And was almost tearing up about it. I was like, ‘Wow, this is – this is a different type of level.'”

And you know, Travis was a perfect fit for Kentucky Basketball fans. He wasn’t the quickest guy down the floor, he didn’t jump the highest or have a sweet looking three-point shot but he did have several attributes that Kentucky fans love. He had heart. A great big heart, love for people and a love for the game. He had grit and determination. He never gave up, never gave in.

But he was also a hard worker, putting in the extra time to be successful. Here’s what Washington coach Mike Hopkins said about Travis while he was playing at Stanford, “We showed up early for our game at Stanford, and there’s one guy in the gym: Reid Travis, working on his game.”

Travis was also a leader for Kentucky — on and off the floor. He always did the little things to help others succeed and help the team to win. He set the screen, went inside to get the tough rebound or always worked to be in the right position at the right time.

“Reid’s just a great guy to play with. He definitely has the experience in college basketball. He is a leader. He’s showing these young guys how to get it done every day, how to go in and work and come out and play hard. He plays hard every possession. He has grown-man strength. He definitely knows how to move you out of the way,” PJ Washington said about Travis.

In life things don’t always work out the way we want them to. Sometimes we can work hard towards a goal only to find out that the circumstances aren’t going to allow us to reach that goal. Championships don’t always come to the best team or even the one that works the hardest and NBA contracts don’t always happen for players that work the hardest or present the best image. They don’t even always happen for the most athletic or talented players. But what does happen for those guys is they leave a lasting legacy with the fans and they become role models for future players to follow.

It seems like that is already happening. A guy like Reid Travis, accomplishing his goal at Stanford of completing his bachelor’s degree, decides to move on to other challenges in a different part of the country with a different set of coaches and in so doing paved the way for other players to do the same. And they are. Next year’s graduate transfer, Nate Sestina from Bucknell, is a guy that appears to be following Travis’ lead.

That type of leadership and self-sacrifice — putting other’s interests before your own — is what makes Reid Travis my second favorite player. Even though Travis didn’t win a National Title and wasn’t on the All- Southeastern Conference team and maybe won’t get drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft he will still always be a member of the Big Blue Family and he will have set the bar high for future graduate transfers that come to play for the Big Blue.

And as a great leader you can’t ask for more than that — to have other people follow your lead. 

13 comments

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  1. Excellent choice…top of the line!

  2. Just saw this on one of ESPN’s latest projected draft pick updates and if true, no wonder we don’t ever have to worry about IUse2be and their coaching staff:
    DID YOU KNOW THIS, I DID NOT….FIRST TIME I’VE HEARD IT.

    “After playing most of last season with a torn ligament in his shooting hand, concerns about Langford’s inefficient scoring have been silenced significantly. If he can shake off the injury and score at a more effective clip, the Pistons could scoop up a lottery talent just outside it.” WOW!

    I saw a bunch of “green light” missed 3s at crunch time from Langford last year that blew my mind, when it was obvious that he could not throw it in the ocean. It’s one thing to promise a player that he will be the “go to man” in order to get his commitment, but a little over the top, to allow him to override team solidarity by hoisting up 3s with a bum hand, to convince the scouts he was a shooter.
    Get em IU!

  3. All of those things were good for us, but they were not good for Reid in any way. I know this was not the picture that was painted for him when he was deciding where he would go, even though Calipari was looking at this as a very possible scenario. I guess the moral of the story is to think things through and not ignore obvious red flags. I still think if he had gone to Kansas, he would be a lottery pick in this draft. Whatever Reid says in public, I am sure he wishes he had done things differently. Players like himself, Dakari Johnson, Issac Hamilton, Bam Abdebeyo, and even Julius Randle did not get fair shakes here. Bam and Julius are doing ok, Issac never made it to the NBA, at least not yet, and the verdict is still out on Reid. I think he will spend a couple of years in the G league and then make a team like Dakari did. Its hard to use this as recruiting material though and that is why Cal is having such a hard time getting big men to come here. You reap what you sow.

  4. I guess you can read Reid’s mind right? Only problem is, I don’t hear him complaining about his time at UK, only you. Remember this, not every player will make it to an NBA roster, even had they gone to Kansas.

  5. Where to start. First I think Travis was not the biggest transfer in UK history. That would be Kyle Macy. Macy was a solid player as a freshman at another power conference team. He had to sit out a year to play for the Cats. He helped bring home a NC too.

    Travis didn’t sacrifice anything to come to UK. He came seeking the spotlight. He was not held back by Cal either. He had every chance to shine. The idea he would be a lottery pick is just not feasible IMO. He does not have the body to play his style in the pros especially in this time of positionless players. Travis was a great college player. He will not be a great NBA player. I wish he would be for his sake but I wish I would have been one too.

    Macy sacrificed the spotlight at a school in a much better conference than the one Travis came from. Purdue was a top 20 team at times playing in the espeically tough Big 10 (think undefeated IU). And we can’t forget what he meant to UK basketball. He was a key player on the 1978 championship team. He was a better player than Travis by a good margin. I really like Reid but I’m not blind to his limitations. I wish he had been the great player we all hoped he would be. He was very good. He was not great. We can’t all be lottery picks. I didn’t even get to play. I feel more sorry for me than him. All kidding aside I am glad Travis came to UK in a big way. I wish him all the best. But I don’t expect him to be playing the low post in the NBA mainly because there are very few low post players in the game now. If he learns to shoot and learns to be a step quicker he may have a shot. He does not at this point.

  6. Pup you can be so right on at times and other times you just don’t have a clue. We all saw what Reid was capable of when PJ was out with his injury. He could have had an entire season like that if he had gone to another school that would have allowed him to be the star. Just because he is taking the high road on this now, doesn’t mean that he is ok with his NBA being devalued by the way Calipari used him. Kansas was just a school that really needed a big when Azibuke went down. That was just how the cards played out. Calipari had planned all along to build his offense around PJ and should have been more upfront about that with Reid. If he had, Reid would have gone somewhere else…anyone with his talent would have. You are so rah rah about Calipari that you dismiss anyone who got the short stick with him as not being good enough. Reid showed he was good enough, even better. We would not have won any of those last 4 games in the season without Reid’s play. Reid got screwed just like Dakari Johnson, Issac Humphries, Bam Adebayo, and even Julius Randle did. None ever came close to realizing their potential due to the way Calipari designed his offense for someone else. You can see that big men are no longer coming here…they saw this too.

    1. Travis is a great young man, and a good basketball player, but not near the talent P J Washington is. A blind man could see that. Read King’s post above and learn how to assess talent Catmandoo. You are so down on Calipari you can’t think straight these days. You don’t know what Calipari told Reid Travis anymore then I do. Travis came to UK based on his decision alone, did he not? No one twisted his arm or forced him too commit. He wanted to play for the guy that has put more players in the NBA than any college coach in America, John Calipari, not Bill Self. He wanted to win a national championship, and felt UK gave him the best chance of doing just that. Playing for UK certainly didn’t hurt his NBA hopes IMO, and I think most UK fans would agree with me on that. As for Calipari’s signing big men, he has signed his fair share, and will do so in the future, just watch. You are blind to the truth because of a dislike for Calipari that excludes logic. It is remarkable to read your posts that quite frankly are anti UK.

      1. I think Calipari recruited and coached DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Anthony Towns, four pretty good bigs. NOw Isaac Humphries also has chance to stick in NBA and he did pretty well with Julius Randle, too

  7. You are making my point Larry. All of those big men were recruited in the first half of Calipari’s time at UK. How many elite big men has Calipari recruited in the last 3 years? The answer is 0. They have seen what happens to big men who come to Kentucky.

    As for Pup’s ranting…Reid Travis is a better player than PJ Washington. 80% of Calipari’s offense was run through PJ and Tyler. Everyone saw what Reid did when PJ was hurt. If the offense had been run through Reid instead of PJ we would have won the SEC regular season and the SEC tournament. We would have had a No. 1 seed and would have most likely made the Final 4. As for Calipari, I guarantee you that he never told Reid that the offense would be run through PJ, if he had, Reid would have never come here. People like you make me ashamed to tell people that I played for UK. I have talked about this with guys I played with and even some of the coaches and they all say that John Calipari is the best salesman in college basketball. They don’t see how it can continue for more than a few more years. BBN wants national titles not to be recognized as an NBA farm team. Contract extension be damned, Calipari’s days at UK are numbered if he doesn’t start winning national titles.

    1. Catmandoo, in all seriousness, name some former players and coaches who agree with you on Calipari. That is easy for you to say without naming names IMO. Most of BBN, about 99%, are quite satisfied with what John Calipari has accomplished at UK in 10 years, and there is more to come. Everybody wants to win national championships. If it was that easy everybody would. Keep digging that hole my man. No. 9 is right around the corner.

    2. But he still recruited them. Not been a ton of big guys like that for anybody to recruit lately. UK chose not to recruit DeAndre Ayton, a guy I liked but Cal has to be the one to decide. I think almost every coach in the country would like to recruit like Kentucky does based on what they tell me

      1. Speaking of DeAndre Ayton, it is very difficult to recruit against schools that cheat in the recruiting process. Schools’ that pay for play. Did that happen with Ayton, I think so. Ask Arizona and Sean Miller.

    3. Catman, I respect that you are an ex UK player as I respect all UK players. But you are dead wrong about Reid being better than PJ. If that was the case he would not have been at UK last year he would have been in the NBA. He came to UK to improve his chances for an NBA career. As a self described player who did not start but helped make the other players better, you often sound bitter and angry. Like a guy who thought he should have gotten more playing time IMHO. You played for Joe B and he is obviously not one of the coaches you talked to because he is all in with Cal. And as a guy who has camped out for BBM for 13 straight years(more than that totally) those Rah Rah’s as you call us I can promise you don’t feel like you do either(come join me and see for your self). Us Rah Rah’s filled Commonwealth when there was nothing to Rah Rah about. Us Rah Rah’s pack Nashville every year for the SEC Tournament and us Rah Rah’s make sure that most NCAA Tournament games look like Rupp Arena. If what you say is true, if the True Blue Fans as you call yourself believe like you do then where are you guys. The Rah Rah’s are the BBN we are why UK is nationally known as having the best fans in the world. And nothing you say here will ever change that. But hey I respect your right to say it. Rah Rah Rah

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