For a moment, Reid Travis seemed to feel the weight of his decision.
Standing at a podium, Travis, the 23rd-ranked boys’ basketball player in the nation according to ESPN, shook his head, acknowledging the end of the long journey of his recruitment.
The 6-8 forward had been pursued by the Gophers — first by Tubby Smith and more recently by new coach Richard Pitino’s staff — since the Minneapolis native entered high school. For the last two years, Travis had been a top prospect on the national scene. Travis grew and improved, season after season, dominating headlines.
Then, for Gophers fans, the five-star flirtation was over in an abrupt instant.
With Gophers loyalists scattered around DeLaSalle High School for the Friday announcement and many more across the state watching on live streams, Travis declared his long-awaited choice:
He would go to Stanford.
His father, Nate Travis, trying to contain his tears of joy, slid his son a Stanford hat, one with a distinctly different shade of maroon from the one Gophers fans were hoping to see grace the prospect’s head.
“It just kind of came down to the feeling,” said Reid Travis, who averaged 26.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season for Class 3A champion DeLaSalle. “I went out to Stanford and immediately it just felt like home and it was comfortable there … [Cardinal coach] Johnny Dawkins did a great job of building a relationship with me since sophomore year. It got to the point this last year where it wasn’t even like he was recruiting me anymore, it was like I was talking to a family member — he was just checking in on me.”
For some, it came as a bit of a shock to the heart.
Travis was publicly choosing between Stanford, Duke and the Gophers, but the momentum had appeared to shift the Gophers way in the final stretch. The senior sat behind the bench at Williams Arena at Monday’s exhibition game, strolled through the locker room and had seemed very comfortable around the Minnesota campus less than a week before making his decision.
Locally, he was perceived to be the Gophers’ best shot at any of the “Big Three” recruits in the state, who also include Tyus Jones and Rashad Vaughn.
Jones, the Apple Valley point guard ranked as one of the top five recruits in the nation, is expected to announce soon, while Rashad Vaughn, the former Cooper standout now at Findlay Prep School in Nevada, has said he won’t commit until the spring.
“It hurts a lot,” said Paul Presthus, the former Gophers player and captain and current booster, after noting that it was hard to fault Travis for his decision. “These kids that are nationally ranked kids, they don’t come down the path. … You’ve got to get that first one before you can get any more. So it’s extremely disappointing when you don’t. And especially when you feel you came really close.”
Pitino already has three recruits for 2014 in guards Nate Mason and Carlos Morris and forward Josh Martin. All three are listed as three-star recruits. But Travis would have brought a new level of prospect to the Gophers, which hasn’t landed a five-star recruit in more than 10 years, according to Scout.com.
Travis said he flip-flopped on his decision all week before finding resolve on Thursday night, saying, “It hit me in the head.” An excellent student, Travis said he doesn’t fear the job security of Dawkins, who is rumored to be on the hot seat, noting that he was going for “the school first.”
“I wanted to give my parents the opportunity to say they have a son at Harvard and a son at Stanford,” said Travis, referring to his brother, Jonah Travis, who plays for the Crimson. “That’s an opportunity that not every parent can say.”