“To tell you the truth, I think I was just at home chilling and somebody called me at home and said did you know you are on the Internet and all over Google,” recalls Travis Releford with a laugh. “A couple of days later I went to check and I was all over, I thought it was cool.”
Unfortunately, older teammates had a tough time understanding or accepting his sudden stardom and at times they pretty much froze their best player out of the offense.
“It helped me to focus on other things. I was like O.K. they won’t pass it to me, go get a rebound and score the basket,” said Releford. “Then I thought go get a steal, go get an assist, it kind of helped me learn to do everything.”
Heading into his sophomore season Releford had risen into national rankings for the class of 2008 and earned a reputation as the best player in Kansas City regardless of class. It didn’t take long to notice a change in what people expected from him and the types of critiques he was subjected to.
“I kind of noticed it, people expected a lot more of me,” Releford says of the pressure being highly ranked added. “In the city people would come to the game and I’d have like 22 points or something like that and people would be saying “he’s overrated, he should be scoring 50,” It was a lot of pressure.”
Soon after, Releford also started to feel the pressure in the classroom. Attending classes filled with distractions and witnessing regular fights on school grounds, he found himself neglecting his schoolwork and realized that a change needed to be made for him to have a chance at qualifying academically to attend college on a basketball scholarship.
“I didn’t have a problem with the coaches, but I wanted to go to a big college and I couldn’t have done that at Central,” says Releford. “There were too many distractions, the teachers didn’t really care.
“Kid and teachers would be hollering in class and I’d just get up and go to the gym and play ball, and they’d let me. I realized they shouldn’t be letting me do that, so I decided that I wanted to switch. My mom said to go ahead and do it if that’s what I thought I should do.”
Given the ok to look around by his mother Venita Vann, Releford started researching his transfer and focused in on Bishop Miege across the state line in the suburbs of Kansas. Initially, his reason for picking Miege was one that any other teenage boy could appreciate.
“I was mostly looking at Bishop Miege because my girlfriend was going there,” admits Releford. “It was also close and it was a good school so I took a visit there and decided to transfer. It’s been a very good move. The best part is the kids. I like the people at the school.”
During his junior season Releford was joined at Miege by his younger brother Trevor, a skinny five-foot-eight inch point guard. Having a sibling close by made the transition to a new school in a new neighborhood that much easier.
“He can pass the ball like no other. I look up to that like if I had a little bit of that in my game, I’d be this much better,” Travis says of playing with his little brother. “Off the court most of the time we’re just laughing and joking around. He talks a lot more than me.”
While he can always count on his brother for a laugh, Releford is quick to point out just how important his mother’s love and care has been in shaping him.
“My mom, she’s like real cool and we can talk about anything,” Releford says of his mother Venita Vann. “We talk and laugh a lot. She’s helped me out along the way a lot with her joking.
“The thing is she might be joking, but I know she’s really serious and a lot of the time she’s pointing out the things I need to do.”
Not surprisingly there have also been plenty of people around Kansas City looking to capitalize off of Releford’s notoriety. Because of that, he keeps a tight circle of friends and adults he trusts for advice.
“There’s a lot of people who come around, I don’t know who they are and I know they just want to talk to me because I’m being recruited and I play ball,” says Releford. “I don’t talk to them though, I don’t really have a lot of friends. Just a few good friends.”
One of those good friends is Mike Gholston, Jr., a senior at Raytown (Mo.) South. Because of their close relationship Gholston’s father has developed from an early coach into a father figure of sorts for Releford.
“Mike Gholston’s daddy, when I played with him he was like a father figure to me,” Releford says of Mike Gholston, Sr. “Mike was like my best friend and his dad was always real good to me. He used to talk to us about life and really cared for us and it was about way more than basketball. I still look up to him.”
Editor's note: This is part two of a three part story, "Releford Rising." If you missed the first part, CLICK HERE.