Who are we talking about?
Reid Travis, senior forward (who transferred from Stanford)
What did he do last season?
It’s probably safe to assume that much of the Big Blue Nation didn’t have too many chances to see Reid Travis in action last year. There’s a reason why him coming to Lexington for his final college season was such a big deal. He’s a big dude with a big game. He’s a proven college basketball player that even No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton had problems with defensively last season at Arizona when the Wildcats and Cardinal locked horns. Travis was a First Team All-Pac-12 member and averaged just a shade under 20 points a game last season. He’s legit.
I broke down more of Travis’ game in this piece here that you can check out and see what makes Travis so good.
For Stanford: 35 games (all starts), 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game on 52.7 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 6.9 free throw attempts per game (nice) and making 67.5 percent of those attempts.
His best performance from last season:
I mean, pick your poison. Travis scored in double figures in 34 of the 35 games he played in, including scoring 20+ points in 16 of those contests. His season-high of 33 points came in a winning effort against a solid Washington team on Feb. 22 where he also grabbed nine boards in the victory for the Cardinal.
In both games against Arizona, he went for 20+ points and 10+ rebounds against Arizona. One of his most complete performances this past January came in a matchup with USC where Travis went for 29 points and 10 rebounds in another Stanford win.
Travis is a rare piece for Kentucky that will be so crucial in the later months of the season
When Travis announced that he was coming to finish his college career at Kentucky, my initial thought was, “This team has no glaring weaknesses, and that’s just scary.”
With teams in the past, there’s that one thing that could hold a Calipari-coached team back. For last year’s bunch, it was hitting outside shots. This year’s team can do that in bunches. Just watch Tyler Herro alone.
In some cases, Kentucky asserting their will down low was difficult at times because teams would pack the paint. That’s not going to be an issue with Travis’ arrival, and that’s not even mentioning the returns of Nick Richards and Mean Mugs Washington, and a talented E.J. Montgomery coming to Lexington out of high school.
(I noted this in the piece I plugged on Travis earlier), but a Pac-12 assistant was quoted on record to ESPN’s Myron Medcalf as saying, “He is impossible to guard one-on-one at the college level.”
Travis not only brings power, strength and experience to the Kentucky frontcourt, but he also brings a sense of “been there, done that,” and that’s something Calipari’s teams usually don’t have. He’s a senior with a game that’s much more developed than some of the younger prospects in the country.
Sure, his Stanford teams didn’t have a glowing resume of tournament success (well actually, they never made the tournament in Travis’ four years there), but you can’t put a price on game reps in the college game and Travis has plenty of them. (There’s an NCAA joke in there about price and stuff, but moving on.)
Transfer turned champion?
Kentucky has had a history of transfers who’ve helped lead the program to national titles.
The trend began with Kyle Macy, who spent one season at Purdue before making the decision to transfer to Kentucky. After sitting out the 1976-77 season, Macy averaged 12.5 points and 5.6 assists per game in 1977-78, helping lead the Wildcats to its only national championship in 20 years.
20 years later, Derek Anderson did the same spending two seasons at Ohio State before joining to Kentucky and sitting out the 1994-95 season. Anderson was then part of one of the greatest teams in college basketball history, as the 1995-96 Wildcats went 34-2 and won title No. 7.
But Anderson wasn’t the only transfer that year, Kentucky also had Mark Pope, who spent two seasons at Washington before transferring to Kentucky. After sitting out the 1993-94 season, Pope would later be part of that memorable ‘96 squad and won it all as a senior.
Then there was Heshimu Evans, a transfer from Manhattan who sat out the 1996-97 season before helping Kentucky win the 1998 championship.
Now 20 years later, Travis will look to follow in their footsteps and lead this preseason No. 1 Kentucky team to banner No. 9.
The best of both worlds
I loved what Calipari said on draft night this past June when he was on ESPN’s Sportscenter talking about Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo and the question of landing Travis came up.
“I say if it’s talent or experience, I’m taking talent, but guess what? With him, we get both with him,” Calipari exclaimed.
You can watch the whole quote here:
Calipari loves his talented and massive frontcourts. This is easily going to be his best group of guys up front since the 2014-15 season with Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein leading the charge.
Travis is a (literal) huge reason why that is. It took him a bit to find his footing in the Bahamas, but once he did, you saw how dangerous he can be.
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