Travis, who averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists per game last season, also enjoys the family atmosphere he feels when around the Mississippi State players. "I go to the (Mississippi State) Sanderson Center and play a lot with the Mississippi State players. I like how they don't fuss at you, but help you out when you do something wrong. They push me like they are my brothers. You can say they are like my second family."
However, even with all the enticements of family and the family atmosphere in Starkville, Memphis also had some family connections that Travis strongly considered. "It was close, real close between the University of Memphis and Mississippi State because his grandmother, uncles and aunts live in Tennessee," said John, Sr.
Even Travis, who also had SEC and C-USA powers such as Alabama, LSU, Florida, Louisville and Tennessee on his early list before narrowing it down to MSU and Memphis, admitted that the family pull almost caused him to choose Memphis over Mississippi State. "It was kind of tough because......my grandmother is up there. It really came down to who I wanted to be with the most, my mom or my grandmom."
Luckily for Mississippi State, mom won out.
Now, with his college choice decision out of the way, Travis has goals, team and individual, that he wants to achieve during this senior season at Starkville High School. "I would like to win the state championship and get player of the year."
And Travis feels Starkville High School recently hired a new head coach, former Mississippi State assistant coach and Brandon High School head coach Greg Carter, that can help him achieve those goals. "First thing that came to my mind when I heard his name was that he would put me through a lot of work. I knew it would be best for me."
Coach Carter, who has been coaching Travis the past few weeks, is just as impressed with Travis and believes the sky is the limit for him. He even compared him to a Mississippi high school player Mississippi State signed a few years ago, Jonathan Bender, who skipped college, declared for the NBA draft and was selected in the first-round. "He has a chance to be as good as Jonathan Bender was, although Jonathan was a little taller," said Carter. "There are so many things he can do that are similar to Jonathan. They both can handle the ball and can shoot the ball. They both can shoot it from the three-point line. They are both athletic. I think he will one day be playing in the NBA."
The NBA. Because of the recruiting prowess of Coach Stansbury and his staff, Robert Kirby and Phil Cunningham, the NBA has played havoc with their recruiting efforts the past few years. First, as stated above, MSU lost Bender, a Parade All-American, to the NBA. Then they signed another Parade All-American, Mario Austin. Mario came extremely close his senior season in high school of declaring for the NBA draft but decided, almost at the last minute, to go to college instead. At the end of his recently completed sophomore season, Mario Austin once again thought about declaring for the NBA draft. But, like in high school, he thought better of it and decided to stay at MSU for at least one more season. Mario cited several reasons, one of which was not being physically ready to play in the NBA.
Like Mario, Travis knows he still needs to work on his game before he will be ready to play in the NBA. "I'm going to have to make a big improvement."
One area that he knows needs a lot of work before he is ready for the NBA is his physical play. Travis, a very slim 6-9, carries just 195 pounds on his frame. He wants to increase that to 215.
With his high school senior season just ahead and the NBA just a distance dream at the moment, Travis has thought about what goal he would like to achieve at Mississippi State, a team that showed dramatic improvement the past season under the leadership of head coach Rick Stansbury. "You can tell there is a lot of improvement happening and I want to be a part of it. I think I can help push them to the Final Four with a lot of hard work."
Coach Carter believes that as well. "Mississippi State will not only have the chance to win SEC championships, but with the caliber of a player like Travis Outlaw, to win a national championship."
Here's hoping both Travis Outlaw and Coach Carter are correct.
COMPLETE PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES AND PICTURES:
Travis Outlaw: "I decided I wanted to commit to Mississippi State University. It is close to home. I'm like a momma and daddy's boy. I don't feel comfortable without seeing my family in the bleachers."
Dad John Outlaw, Sr.: "We are happy that he has chosen Mississippi State. It was close, real close between the University of Memphis and Mississippi State because his grandmother, uncles and aunts live in Tennessee.
"Travis has had a relationship with Coach Stansbury and Coach Kirby since the 8th grade. As a matter of fact, they were the ones who said Travis had a bright future in playing basketball. They said he had some talent, some skills that they hadn't seen in an 8th grader. I told them he was about average to me. I see him everyday and critique him pretty hard. I'm just glad that this process has come to a conclusion. Now he can get on with his life and enjoy the remainder of his school year and not be pressured by anyone. He can just enjoy himself."
Was that one of the main reasons that Travis went ahead and got it out of the way?
"Yeah, I had already picked out my two teams."
Who were the other schools you considered before you narrowed it down to Mississippi State and Memphis?
"Alabama, LSU, Florida, Louisville, Tennessee...that was about it."
At the MSU camps and in the Sanderson Rec Center I have seen you with the MSU players. You really seem to get along with them very well. Are they almost like a second set of brothers to you?
"Yeah, I go to the Sanderson Center and play with them. You can say they are like my second family."
Talk about having Greg Carter as your new high school coach.
"First thing that came to my mind when I heard his name was that he would put me through a lot of work. I knew it would be best for me."
From a mother's perspective, talk about Travis staying home and playing college at Mississippi State.
[Markeeth Outlaw.] "I was really excited. He came in at 4 o'clock in the morning and asked us if we were asleep. We said yes. (laugh). We knew there was a lot on his mind and he wanted to talk about it. We talked about it and he said he had made up his mind and that is what he wanted to do. He said he had talked to Coach Stansbury and it just felt like that is what he wanted to do and he was ready to commit. I was excited because it is right down the street and we can make the games with no problem. It was good for us."
What did you like about Memphis and Mississippi State?
"They both believed in me and were willing to work with me. They both want me to get bigger. They both had family there. It really came down to who I wanted to be with the most, my mom or my grandmom."
Talk about the progress Mississippi State program has shown the past few years and how it affected your decision.
"It shocked me that they made it all the way to the NCAA second round. You can tell there is a lot of improvement happening and I want to be a part of it. I think I can help push them to the Final Four with a lot of hard work."
You speak so much about family. Do you think that is part of the reason Mississippi State so well this year because of their family-type chemistry?
"By me being here, I play a lot with the Mississippi State players. I like how they don't fuss at you, but help you out when you do something wrong. They push me like they are my brothers."
What area of your game do you need to improve on to take that next step?
"My physical play."
How tall are you and how much do you weigh?
"I think I am 6-9 and weigh 195."
How much do you eventually want to weigh?
What position are you looking to play in college?
Do you have some goals you would like to accomplish while you are still in high school?
"I would like to win the state championship and get player of the year." [Travis won the player of the year award in the Columbus Commercial Dispatch newspaper.-Gene]
When did you (John Outlaw) first realize he was a very special player?
"As Travis progressed during his 7th grade year, I saw a few glimpses of good talent, but I was always under the impression that he was average or a little bit below. A young man from Kentucky who coached an AAU team said, 'I don't know why you are so hard on him because he is head and shoulders above my kids and he has a great future. One day we will see on television if he continues to progress like he is doing.' I said he will have to do a whole lot better. He said, 'Dad step out of the picture and let someone else come in and critique him a little bit because your goals are probably a little bit unrealistic.' I thought I did that. I sent him to the Mississippi State camp. After the camp, Coach Stansbury pulled me over to the side and said, 'John, this kid is in junior high and he is performing at a senior level.' I said, 'Coach, something is wrong with you. They may need to get rid of you.' All jokes aside, he said, 'he is special. We are going to monitor him. We want him to come to every camp we have.' I said, 'that is not a problem because he is right here.' After that, they had a great summer. I guess it doesn't take more than a couple of times for the right people to see you and the whole world opens up.
"I have been coaching both of my boys since they were about 4 years old. I'm real hard, hard meaning there are certain areas of the game you are supposed to know, on them. There were some things that I taught them and when they didn't do them it really got on my nerves. I guess it is just like a teacher who has gone over the subject and when it comes time for the test, the kids just bombed them. Like I told Travis, those things that I have taught you will carry you along way and I can only carry you so far. They will only listen to mom, dad and brother and then someone else has to come in and take it over. Coach Brooks, last year, gave him the freedom to express himself but, at the same time, the team part fell off. I think that is what happened to them last year, the team concept sort of went out the window."
A lot of people are wondering if professional basketball still an option for Travis Outlaw?
"I'm going to have to make a big improvement. I really don't know."
[John Outlaw commented on this question.] "He gets asked that quite a bit. I think he realized that it is a lot of work. First, he has to conquer high school, then whatever happens after high school will happen. He looking to go to school."
Was this really that tough of a decision?
"It was kind of tough because Caliperi was up there and my grandmother is up there. I was about to head on up to Memphis but I thought about it. I had a dream about a couple of weeks ago. I would feel kind of odd not being able to play in front of my dad and my mom. And my brother has always been there by my side."
Talk about your brother. Like your parents, he is in the stand watching you. You even will look back at him and he will talk to you.
"Yeah, he told me everytime that I step between the lines I'm supposed to be ready to play. Sometimes I may not be serious and he will get mad at me. He brings the best out of me."
When did you realize that he was a special player?
[His older brother John Outlaw, Jr.] "Really, I used to look at him like my dad did. He was tall but I thought he was kind of lazy. I started to thinking about it and like my dad said we met the guy from Kentucky and he said he was kind of hard on him. We always looked at things he could do and not what he was doing."
You two appear to be very close. Talk about how proud you are of it. [His older brother John Outlaw, Jr.] "I am proud of him. When I say proud, I mean I am very proud. My dad, like he said, he was hard on him..he was hard on both of us..he pushed him to work hard."
Starkville High School Head Basketball Coach Greg Carter:
Talk about Travis and how he compares to the other great players that have come out of Mississippi.
"He has a chance to be as good as Jonathan Bender was, although Jonathan was a little taller. There are so many things he can do that are similar to Jonathan. They both can handle the ball and can shoot the ball. They both can shoot it from the three-point line. They are both athletic. I think he will one day be playing in the NBA. If he keeps his mind the way it is...he is a very humble kid...he knows he needs to improve. He has a chance to one day be drafted as high as Jonathan Bender was."
He is also a good passer, isn't he?
"He is a good passer. The thing about being a good passer is being willing to pass and he is willing to pass. When he gets double-teamed, he gets it out. He hits cutters for layups and passes it out to open guys for three-point shots. He doesn't mind doing that. That is the biggest part of being a good passer."
I realize you are his coach but you are also an alumnus of Mississippi State, his school of choice. That has to make you feel good.
"Oh yeah. I think Mississippi State has improved a lot over the past few years. Mississippi State is at a point right now where it is recognized as a really good school. To be able to get recruits like Travis Outlaw to come in, it will stay up there and have a chance to win every year. Mississippi State will not only have the chance to win SEC Championships, but with the caliber of a player like Travis Outlaw, to win a National Championship."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.