With all the positives and excellency that Kentucky has shown throughout the Bahamas Tour, the most experienced player of the group was the one who arguably struggled the most.
Reid Travis shot just 34% during his first four games in a Kentucky uniform, looking vastly uncomfortable on the low-block and missing shots that he’s typically made with ease throughout his Stanford years.
Travis did end on a high note with 19 points on Sunday and even hit a pair of three-pointers, but his bread and butter is being a bruising forward in the paint that can muscle in tough baskets against anyone, including DeAndre Ayton twice last season.
John Calipari is confident that Travis will get it going as we get closer to the real season in November.
“I like the fact that Reid [Travis] kind of busted through today because he struggled,” Calipari said Sunday. “But he’s still — he and I just talked and I said, your habit right now is to gather yourself. It isn’t going to work anymore. Not only here but if you want to be professional, that will not work.
“And he knows it. He says ‘you read my mind.’ I said, anytime there’s any kind of pressure, you’re going to revert to what you know best. And that’s what he knows best right now because we haven’t coached him. So I said, ‘we’re going to get you to where you’re getting balls to the rim quicker, you’re shooting some runners and then go rebound your miss and you’re not going to gather yourself down and bust your way through.’
“There are games he can do that, but not against the good teams.”
Following Saturday’s win over Mega Bemax, Kentucky coach Joel Justus said Travis’ in-game difficulties have been a result of the massive adjustments he’s had to make in transferring to Kentucky.
“I think he’s learning a new system. He’s a new guy for us too. He’s playing with new guys. He’s going to be fine. He’s getting shots in areas he’s never taken them for and playing in places he’s never played,” said Justus.
“That’s why Travis wanted to come here. He wanted to be pushed. He wanted to come here to be challenged, and that’s what he’s doing right now. What he is doing is, he’s in the gym. He’s watching film. What he needs to do to be a better version of himself. It’s August 11. We’ve got a ways to go. He’s excited.”
Even if his offense in the Bahamas wasn't spectacular, Travis is still one of, if not the most important player on this team. The key to potentially winning a national championship runs through his leadership, his experience, and his part in teaching the young players on this team.
“He’s a great leader for us on defense,” said Justus. “These young guys are so blessed to have him. They love playing with him. He’s giving these young players confidence. So he’s missing a couple of shots? He’s doing outstanding things for our basketball team that aren’t showing up on the box score.”
Look no further than how hard Kentucky played in all four games of their Bahamas trip, especially on the defensive end. This already looks like one of the hardest-working teams John Calipari has had, and you have to think Travis is a big reason why.
Kentucky has not had a player like Travis during the Calipari era: A senior with All-American potential and prior years of high-level individual success in his belt. By the time he is fully comfortable and is wreaking havoc in the post, as he does better than anyone in college basketball, this Kentucky team will be on par with legends.
Seth Greenberg said it best during Sunday’s broadcast in that Travis may be an experienced college player, but he’s still a freshman when it comes to Kentucky’s system and being comfortable with his new teammates.
The great thing about Travis was even during his struggles, he still made a major impact on this team with his rebounding. He grabbed 41 in four games, an average of 10.3 per game.
If nothing else, Travis is going to be one of Kentucky’s best rebounders in the John Calipari era.
Reid Travis said it’s all a process for him as he tries to transition from playing “bully ball” to playing more athletic. “For me, it’s really a transition from the way I’ve played my whole career.” pic.twitter.com/OlAvb5DPM1— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) August 12, 2018
What a great experience to play in front of BBN down here in the Bahamas! Blessed to be apart of this special group. https://t.co/iOztA9reOo— Reid Travis (@2ReidTravis2) August 13, 2018