KANSAS CITY, MO (WAVE) - Annually under Coach John Calipari, Wildcat fans have grown accustomed to saying farewell to young players who spend one year in Lexington before heading to the NBA Draft.
But when the graduate-transfer from Stanford, Reid Travis became a Wildcat, he became a different kind of one-and-done.
Despite being sidelined for part of the season due to an ankle sprain, Calipari and the team praised Travis all year as the locker room leader. After all, he was years older than the largely-freshman team. And in postgame comments, he was consistent, measured and mature.
So as March approached, the man who’d become the big brother of the locker room, was the only one on the team who entered each game knowing for sure his playing days were growing few.
This year being Travis’s final and only shot at a national championship was the topic of many media day questions, and undoubtedly on the minds of Travis and his teammates. Added, was the Hollywood storyline waiting to unfold, with this year’s Final four set in Travis’s hometown of Minneapolis.
And when the Cats fell to Auburn in a Sunday stunner, Travis was obviously emotional leaving the court. Travis had nine points and six assists in the overtime loss, but the focus of his teammates and his coach postgame was on his role as a team leader.
“I wanted to see one more weekend," Calipari said. " I wanted Reid to be able to go back to Minnesota, which he deserved for what he’s done for this program and us.. To have a guy come to this program and absolutely trust - we never promised him he start or how many minutes. I don’t do that. But having enough trust to know and enough faith in himself to come here and then through the ups and downs... what a great lesson if anybody else was watching and all these young kids were watching.”
“It’s going to be hard, especially with Reid,” Immanuel Quickley said. “Knowing he couldn’t get back to Minneapolis. We tried to get him back, but just came a little short.”
If you hadn’t seen him crying walking off the court, jersey partly covering his face, you’d never have known Travis was anything but his typical reserved self. He quickly dispensed with those tears, and when it came time to answer media questions, he was measured and mature, as he has been all season.
“As far as this being my last college game, been through a lot of adversity, lot of ups and downs, Travis said. “Obviously, being able to come here, its been a blessing and thankful for the opportunities. Lot of emotions not being able to finish it the way I wanted to, but that doesn’t take away from the experience that I had. This has been one of the best years of my life playing basketball and I just wanted to end it the right way with this group of guys.”
Travis said he was surprised by his evolution during one year at Kentucky, not on the court, but off of it.
“It was a great year for me. There’s no complaints on my end, it was everything I could wish for as far as as developing myself, growing. It’s definitely not for everybody. But if you have a strong mind, and the will to do it, I’d say it’s a great option. It’s been a blessing for me to learn from my teammates, coaches, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Until the final moments of his last postgame media availability, Travis was all-class and had praise and encouragement for his little brothers on the team.
“Everyone fought,” Travis said. “Everyone gave everything they could, and it didn’t work out the way.. But that’s life sometimes. You just have to trust the journey we’re all on, and hold our heads up high and enjoy the time we were able to have together.”