Dave Thorson was running his annual summer camp for young basketball players at DeLaSalle and received a call from Jackie Travis: Transportation issues were going to cause her two young boys to be arriving by bicycles and the Islanders coach should be on the lookout.
“I waited outside and here they came, Jonah maybe a fourth-grader, Reid a second-grader, pedaling like crazy,” Thorson said. “When I think about Jonah, a four-year player at Harvard, and Reid, with what he’s accomplished at Stanford and now Kentucky … I always go back to those two little kids appearing on their bicycles, excited to be there for another day of basketball.”
Thorson’s relationship with Jackie and Nate Travis goes back to 1994, when he was hired as the DeLaSalle boys’ basketball coach. Marcus Travis, a nephew, was living with Jackie and Nate, and was entering his junior season at DeLaSalle.
Now an assistant coach at Colorado State, Thorson said: “Marcus was my first great player; more than that, he’s another great DeLaSalle success story. He’s a manager at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and I’m sure getting geared up for all the auxiliary events for the Final Four.”
This Final Four in Minneapolis would take on a whole new level of excitement for Marcus if his cousin, Reid, returns for the event as a starter for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Reid is the second of five Travis children. Jonah played four seasons for Tommy Amaker at Harvard and is now working in New York City. Olivia is a freshman playing on a basketball scholarship at Division II Trevecca Nazarene in Nashville.
Jalen is a junior on DeLaSalle’s No. 1-rated team in Class 3A basketball, and he’s also a big-time football recruit as an offensive tackle and with grades that are “off the chart,” in the words of father Nate. And then there’s Grace, the baby at age 14, and an Islander, of course.
“Jalen gets Reid’s hand-me-downs, including the size 18 shoes,” Nate said.
Reid Travis was in the trio of coveted Twin Cities recruits from the Class of 2014, along with Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones and Cooper’s Rashad Vaughn (who played his senior season at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas).
Tyus won a national title at Duke and became part of Mike Krzyzewski’s annual one-and-done parade. He’s in his fourth NBA season with the Timberwolves. Rashad was one-and-done at UNLV, drafted 17th by Milwaukee, and has spent this season in the G League.
Travis is in his fifth collegiate season and having what might be the time of his life amid the unmatched madness that surrounds University of Kentucky basketball.
The 6-8 inside player was a two-time Pac-12 first-teamer for Stanford, received a redshirt for a sophomore season after suffering a leg stress fracture in December 2015, and never saw the NCAA tournament with the Cardinal.
Last spring, Reid graduated with a Stanford degree in science, technology and society, put his name in the NBA draft and then pulled it, hit the market as a graduate transfer, was contacted by Kentucky, and the ’Cats were an easy choice for one last shot at a potential NCAA run.
Coach John Calipari has a nine-player rotation and five are true freshmen. The player Travis usually works with inside is PJ Washington, a 6-8 sophomore with outstanding athletic gifts.
Travis is a 23-year-old fifth-year senior. “I bring an interesting perspective,” he said. “It has been good for the team. I’ve tried to be a leader.”
He has accomplished that, if a sampling of hard-core UK fans attending Saturday’s comeback 65-54 victory at Florida can be taken at their word. Several were interviewed, including Denise Camic with this review:
“We love Reid. He’s a worker. He’s a leader. He’s just what we needed … some experience.”
Denise was wearing blue-and-white striped coveralls, with her face painted like a cat (complete with blue nose), and thus was taken to be a close observer of the 2018-19 ’Cats.
Kentucky started the season rated No. 2, then was humiliated by Duke 118-84 in an opener played in Indianapolis. The Wildcats followed with seven home victories against nonconference walkovers, then played another major opponent — Seton Hall — on Dec. 8 and lost 84-83 at Madison Square Garden.
Four days later, Quade Green, a five-star sophomore point guard, left the program and wound up transferring to Washington. This was taken as a serious negative for Calipari’s program.
Since then, the No. 5 Wildcats are 12-1 and winners of nine in a row after Tuesday’s 76-48 dismantling of South Carolina in Lexington, Ky.
Calipari has a tradition of using minutes played to send a message to players. On Saturday, he sat down Travis in the first half because he said he didn’t feel as if Reid was “getting off his feet.”
Asked about Calipari, Travis said: “You can never be content with where your game is with him as your coach. Every day is a challenge. We have hard practices where he puts you in uncomfortable situations and watches you respond.”
The Wildcats as a whole were in an uncomfortable situation after the Duke blowout. They have responded.
“The message then was, ‘It’s a long season, we’ll bounce back,’ ” Travis said. “We’re doing that.”