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Reid Travis becoming the leader this Kentucky team needs

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Travis has stepped up in a big way when his team has needed him most.

Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

It was a pretty special weekend for Kentucky big man Reid Travis.

On Friday, the graduate transfer was named one of 30 candidates for the senior CLASS award. He followed that up with his best performance in a Wildcat uniform with 22 points and 12 rebounds to post his first double-double of the season.

The 6-foot-8 power forward played a game-high 37 minutes in the 78-61 win over UNC-Greensboro and recorded the 27th double-double of his college basketball career. For the season, Travis is averaging 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game (second in both categories).

“He fought like heck,” said Kentucky Coach John Calipari on Travis’ effort against UNCG. “The only thing Reid is doing (wrong) is he’s got to shoot with his left hand. If it’s you, your man and the basket and he’s in between, you can’t shoot it with that right hand. You got to get it with that left and don’t even worry about making it. Be strong, get it up to the backboard and go get the second one…go get the third one.”

“That’s something that I’m going to keep working on so teams can’t just sit on my right hand,” said Travis of getting up more shots with his left hand. “If I’m going both ways, it’s tougher for them to guard me.”

And UNCG had very few answers for Travis on Saturday. He was physical in the post, battled for position and even hit a three-pointer to display his much improved perimeter shooting this season.

But it’s been his experience and calm demeanor that have had the greatest impact on a young Kentucky team that’s shown signs of getting rattled after missing shots or falling behind early. Despite trailing 40-37 at the half, there were no signs of panic on Saturday at Rupp Arena.

In fact, trailing by five to start the second frame, Travis was spotted offering words of encouragement in a quick, on-court huddle, that seemingly led to UK’s 28-6 run over the final 13 minutes of play.

“It was a very positive huddle…very positive on the court,” said Travis. “Guys understood that if we locked in and did what we had to do, we could go on a run here and that was the biggest thing I was proud about with our team today…that everyone had that look that we knew we were going to switch it on at some point and make a big run.”

While many consider Travis to be a newcomer this season, let’s not forget that he’s already put up some impressive numbers at Stanford, where he was twice named first-team All-Pac 12. He ranks 16th on Stanford’s career scoring list with 1,427 points and 10th on Stanford’s career rebounding chart with 758 rebounds.

As a nominee for the senior CLASS award, Travis has been recognized for his notable achievements in the areas of excellence in community, classroom, character and competition. CLASS is an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School and the focus of the award is on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

The winner will be announced during the 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four in Minneapolis in April.