Tulsa, Okla. After watching Boston University guard John Holland during a team film session earlier this week, one of the Kansas assistant coaches approached sophomore Travis Releford and told him to be prepared.
Though Releford has played just two combined minutes in KU’s last five games, he knows he could be needed as soon as today’s 5:50 p.m. game against BU.
“I think there’s a good possibility I could get called,” Releford said. “And matchup-wise, our size ... it’d be a great matchup.”
One only needs to look at the roster to see why.
Holland, the America East player of the year, is 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds.
Releford’s measurables are identical.
Though KU guard Brady Morningstar will start out defensively on Holland — who’s averaging 19.2 points per game this year — history has shown that KU coach Bill Self won’t hesitate to play his best defenders off the bench in NCAA Tournament games if needed.
Two years ago, in KU’s first-round contest against North Dakota State, Self summoned seldom-used guard Tyrone Appleton to help defend guard Ben Woodside.
Appleton played six minutes in that game after not playing in the Jayhawks’ previous three games.
“I feel like I’m ready for this tournament,” Releford said. “I’ve never really got a chance to play in a really big tournament game. I think this is the year I could be (playing).”
Releford has participated in the NCAA Tournament, but just barely. He played one minute his freshman year at the end of KU’s 60-43 victory over Dayton in the second round.
Last year, he sat out the season after red-shirting.
Releford played double-digit minutes in six straight non-conference games this season before suffering a left-ankle injury against Michigan on Jan. 9. The setback caused his minutes to fluctuate.
Releford said he’s close to 100 percent now, only noticing the injury when making sharp cuts.
“I don’t have any pain on it any more,” Releford said, “and I’m getting back to my explosiveness and my quickness.”
KU guard Tyrel Reed said that one thing that has stayed consistent through the season is Releford’s attitude.
In practice, Releford has been splitting time with the blue team (KU’s main players in the rotation) and the red team (KU’s scout team).
“When he’s on the red team, you’d never sense anything was wrong with him,” Reed said. “Some guys, when they get put on red, they may mope or be sad. He just takes it as another way he can get better.”
Releford knows his name could be called at any point.
“I’m ready,” Releford said. “I’m going to make sure of that.”