From the beginning, Reid Travis knew he'd chart a course distinct from his peers. A burly young star in basketball and football, he realized that the age of two-sport collegiate athletes largely has expired due to increased specialization. Additionally, his strong academic background made the educational component of his recruitment more significant than is the case for most.
But first he had to prove he was good enough for any of that to matter. His rise on the hardwood began during his sophomore season, when he attracted offers from Creighton, Northwestern, New Mexico, Wyoming and Northern Iowa. He also drew a football offer that year from Boston College. There aren't too many quarterbacks around with Travis' physique, but that's exactly the position he projected to play on the gridiron.
Next up was a strong junior season in 2012-13. Travis' basketball accolades enticed even more interest, and offers flowed in from Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, Iowa State, Colorado, Arizona, Washington State, USC, Harvard, Butler, Baylor and N.C. State.
He traveled to Anaheim, Calif., for the opening leg of the EYBL circuit this past April, teaming with Tyus Jones and others for the Howard Pulley Panthers. Starting there and extending through the summer, he proved himself a national top-40 prospect in the Class of 2014.
Travis performed so well that, despite drawing additional football offers from Iowa, Minnesota and Rutgers, he decided to give up the sport and focus on hoops. Earlier this fall he boiled down his recruitment to Duke, Stanford, Gonzaga and Minnesota, and ultimately he selected Johnny Dawkins' Stanford Cardinal program.
At 6-7, 240 pounds, you might guess that strength stands out as a critical tool in his arsenal — and you'd be correct. Travis is muscular without being overly stiff, using his strength simultaneously as a boulder and a knife, and he also possesses high shoulders and long arms.
His body type enabled him to succeed against players several inches taller and more explosive. Upon receiving an entry pass in the post, Travis frequently operates at an initial disadvantage but is able to pin defenders on his hips and turn for short jump hooks or bank shots from short-range.
He's also an underrated face-up shooter. He doesn't have the kind of stroke that screams pick-and-pop from 18 feet, but he capably steps out to 12 feet and excels and knocking in short baseline jumpers — open looks that repeatedly avail themselves in games.
His brawn enables him to muscle his way up for rebounds, and his passing, handling (to a point) and overall coordination are superb. Not surprisingly for a now-former quarterback, he possesses a sound understanding of court spacing and spots weaknesses in defenses as a shooter, driver, handler and post-up bludgeon.
And while linking academic pedigree and basketball IQ can lead to erroneous conclusions in either direction, the fact that Travis is such a strong student manifests quite visibly in his game. He should be able to pick up a college system quickly.
As with all physically advanced young athletes, the primary question is what happens once the skinnier kids close the gap in strength? Too many smaller power forwards have emerged over the years to dominate in high school before sputtering in college. If even a portion of their strength advantage is negated, the shotblockers they previously moved off the block now hold their position and can thwart their offense.
For Travis to experience a more favorable outcome — and we at Scout believe he will — he'll need to continue burying those face-up jump shots. Because he's mobile in a straight line (think tight end mobile, not wide receiver shifty), he changes spots well and should be able to release those high percentage attempts. Still, the size/athleticism translation remains a valid question until the day he answers it on a college court.
Meanwhile, defensively he may struggle against those same opponents. He doesn't project as a shotblocker and will face a quickness deficit versus elite athletes.
On the whole, I feel confident in writing that Travis will enjoy a successful and productive college career. For him to vault into the next category of stature, he'll have to prove he can create his own offense consistently and at least hold his own on defense.
His NBA prospects may be more dubious based on the fact that he'll always be a post player, not a wing, and at 6-7 he's very short for that level. Still, there remains room in the league for players fitting his description, and his high coordination and ability to play facing the rim offer legitimate hope.