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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Keegan

Opinion: Travis Releford making coach look prescient

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson smiles after a dunk by teammate Travis Releford against Belmont during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson smiles after a dunk by teammate Travis Releford against Belmont during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Box score

KU-Belmont

Three autumns ago, in announcing that Travis Releford would red-shirt his second season on the Kansas University basketball team, coach Bill Self predicted the Kansas City, Mo., native would score 1,000 points during his career.

More than a few eyes rolled at a statement believed by many at the time as an attempt by the coach to make the player feel better about not having what it took to join the rotation as a sophomore.

Three years and two seasons into Releford’s career, the 1,000-point prediction had become a punch line. At that point, Releford had just 194 points down, 806 to go.

Looking back on that bold statement, it’s fair to say that if Self could project stock performances as well as he can basketball players, he could turn his millions into billions in no time.

Releford, a tough-to-stop finisher on fast breaks, scored 17 points in Saturday night’s 89-60 victory against Belmont. If you’re scoring at home, that gives Releford 631 career points, leaving him 369 shy of 1,000.

At his current rate of 13.2 points a game, Releford must play 28 more games (37 for the season) to make Self the modern-day Carnac the Magnificent. If Kansas plays three games in the Big 12 tournament, the 37th game of the season would come in the third NCAA Tournament game.

More significant than making the coach’s prediction spot-on, of course, was the wisdom of the decision to remove Releford’s eligibility his second year on campus. Forgive Releford for not always loving the idea. Basketball players love to play basketball and leave the spectating to others.

“At first, when I decided to red-shirt I wasn’t too happy about it because coming into school here, I was one of the guys who was going to play right away and try to make an impact,” Releford said. “When I came in, I realized real fast it wasn’t going to happen for me.”

It’s happening now. Releford ranks third on the team in scoring, first in minutes (32.7 per game) and steals (14) and second in field-goal percentage (.566) and assists (31). Since starting the season 0-for-11 shooting three-pointers, he has made nine of 16.

“He’s doing great,” Self said. “He’s a consistent defender. He’s having fun. He’s becoming more of a consistent scorer. I thought he was really good tonight.”

Self always was high on Releford’s potential. Had he not been, he never would have tied up his scholarship for an extra year by having him sit out a year between his freshman and sophomore seasons and doing it in a way that left Releford feeling as if it were his own decision.

“We talked about my future here, and I agreed with what he was talking about, sat out the year, continued to get better, built up a lot of confidence throughout that and, so far, I think it’s played out best for me,” Releford said.

His efficient line in the Belmont box score captured his versatility. He made six of nine field goals, including both three attempts, and had five rebounds, four assists and three steals.

On a night when Elijah Johnson showed how much better and faster his return to health has made Kansas, Releford showed that the more his team is able to get out and run, the greater his value. He had two dunks, including one of the reverse variety.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said of dunking. “I’d rather watch Ben (McLemore) do a break-away dunk than me do one, but I’m having a lot of fun.”

Kansas moved the ball rapidly in the half-court as well.

“A lot of reps on offense and playing unselfishly,” Releford said of the team looking better of late offensively. “That’s what’s getting us going. We’re all having fun out there, and we’re all having fun doing it.”

Thanks to having the discipline to red-shirt as a sophomore, Releford still is doing it for the school for which he always wanted to play.

Comments

beebe1 1 year, 4 months ago

JB, you sometimes get a bit wordy, but this series is one of your better thought out articles. Course the reader has to be sort of on your brain level to appreciate it. Many thanks for your brainwork. (Not on a par with your humor which seems a bit too quick.)

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yovoy 1 year, 4 months ago

Let us not pretermit that Relly played out of position for at least a full season. That might well be one of the reasons that he isn't closer to, or even over the 1,000-point mark. He's also played on KU squads w/ Sherron, Tyshawn, TRob, The Twins, etc, so he hasn't had to be a scorer/hasn't had the opportunity to be a scorer.

T. Releford's true value - if looked at over time, and as a complete body of work - is his flexibility and adaptability. He's been a red-shirt Soph, a lock-down defender, an undersized 4, a finisher, a shooter (saw him go lights-out in Vegas a couple of years ago and a few times since), a role-player AND a leader. OurSelf was looking at using him as a 1 - if we truly believe that (I don't), but it wouldn't surprise me if he could play it.

While on the subject of prescience, I've always admired whomever it was that saw enough potential in Kevin Young to bring him here. This kid sat OUT a year and didn't play any basketball. I would love to hear the story of how we identified him as a target and how we brought him here. Like Relly, dude is a gamer.

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William Blake 1 year, 4 months ago

This team seems to fit well with one of CS's unique philosophies...

Xtreme Utility! (Jaybate... I'd enjoy your take on this)

CS likes to recruit players that can play more than one position. There are no players on this team that can only play one position. Mr. W? I guess he could play a 4... Tharpe can play a 2.

Here's my list of possibilities:

Player Position

Tharpe 1, 2

BMac 1, 2, 3

TRele 2, 3, 4

EJ 1, 2

KY 2, 3, 4, 5

Mr. W 4, 5

AW3 2, 3, 4

Perry 3, 4, 5

JamTray 4, 5

We have a diverse team... height, finesse, strength, speed, BB IQ... I doubt there are many teams out there with our ability to put so many different looks on the court. This team should end up being one of CS's favorites.

D1 coaching is coming around to what pro coaches have known for a long time; one of the biggest factors (if not biggest) in deciding Ws and Ls is the factor of match-ups. In the pros, teams counter opposing team strengths by specifically recruiting to gain an edge in match-ups.

It is harder to put that much emphasis on the college game because the most any two teams will play each other in a season is 3 games (perhaps 4 in March). However... it does make sense to recruit enough diversity and general utility skills to be able to have several options on match-ups. If I have to think of one thing that lifts CS ahead of most D1 coaches it would be his skill/emphasis on finding the best match-ups to win games. For this reason alone, don't expect to see much zone defense anytime soon... even if we fall into a rut.

I've got KY penciled in at 4 positions. No, he's not the best option we have at the 5. KY isn't outstanding at any single position, but he can hold his own just about anywhere on the court. The reason I have him at the most positions is because we need Kevin on the court for some big minutes, but we also can't deny the gifts other players offer at specific positions (Perry). KY just needs to be on the floor! He'll pull rebounds and steals regardless of where he is on the court so we just need to make sure he keeps logging minutes.

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Steve Gantz 1 year, 4 months ago

I never foresaw that so much would be written about the word prescient in a newspaper article about a basketball player.

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HawkKlaw 1 year, 4 months ago

Travis Releford is probably the most efficient player on this KU team. As the broadcaster mentioned several times, he doesn't take any possessions off on either end of the court. And his stats speak for themselves. What a great player he's becoming!

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Jack Wilson 1 year, 4 months ago

The point is that picking a word like "prescient" in a sports headline is idiotic. No one uses the word, the focus of the entire column is on the word, and it distracts from the article/column (which by the way, never used the word). Whether your speaking, or writing, you're playing to your audience.

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Michael Sillman 1 year, 4 months ago

My education at KU included the word prescient and that was in the School of Pharmacy. What programs were you guys in? Basket weaving?

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Alohahawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Prescient. Not one of those everyday words and surely not befitting most individuals, but Coach Self seems able to foresee a player's potential and to set them on the red-shirt path to maturity. (And for those few who haven't been up to the task, that are advised to transfer.) Releford has proven Self correct in his assessment. Will the same be true for Landen Lucas? Time will tell.

This brings up another possibility: Is Perry Ellis a candidate for red-shirting next year? He definitely has the potential to start, even this year. But if he doesn't improve enough this season, is it foreseeable that he go the same route as Releford? Nine games have been played. That's a quarter of the season. A lot may depend on Perry's on-court performance over the next 23 to (hopefully) 31 games.

As for being prescient, I pat myself on the back. I posted preseason that Releford would score a lot to begin the season, till the underclassmen learned Self's system. Of course, I also predicted that his scoring would then drop off and he would concentrate more on his defense. In that, I hope I'm proven wrong and that he does attain 1000+ points during his KU career. (BTW, I also predicted, from the day he decided to join the 2013 class, that Selden would chose KU.)

As for being prescient? If one predicts that KU wins the next Big 12 Championship, it's 9th in a row, is that being prescient, or just seeing the writing on the wall? As this season has progressed, I've been seeing more and more writing on the wall.

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Norm Jennings 1 year, 4 months ago

KU has been honored with many super-classy young men in our men's Basketball program. Many who were not just terrific athletes that attract the spotlight, but more importantly outstanding team players. I listed a number of gentlemen when I started this post, but realized I would inevitably omit someone that I respected highly. T-relli owns a spot in this club.

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Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Travis was god-jamm right to come to KU! Love his play! The back2back steals were electrifying

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Scatterhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Not surprised the commenters on this site aren't big readers.

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Jerry Rockhold 1 year, 4 months ago

jhox, great comments & couldn't agree more. I've had 2 sons go to Rockhurst in KC & have watched Travis R. since he was in high school playing for Bishop Miege vs. Connor Teahan & Rockhurst. They used to guard each other & have some great one-on-one athletic matchups.

I was at the game yesterday with my youngest son & thoroughly enjoyed watching the growth & maturity of TR's game.

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Jayhawk470 1 year, 4 months ago

One thing I remember about Releford was an ankle injury he sustained in a win at Michigan in 2011. It seems to me that that slowed him down quite a bit for the rest of that season, which is another reason why he hasn't yet cracked 700 points for his career.

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jhox 1 year, 4 months ago

I can remember when people in the basketball community here in KC constantly talked about what a big mistake Releford had made in going to KU. Guys like Marcus Denmon and Michael Dixon were getting meaningul minutes at MU while Travis was watching from the bench. Travis' little brother had a starring role at Alabama as a freshman.

It's funny how much difference a year or two can make. I'm confident Travis wouldn't trade his KU experience for anything now. He's played in an NCAA title game, and has got to play in the greatest atmosphere in all of college sports...probably in all of sports period. He's adored by Jayhawk fans. He'll probably even put himself in a position to make a decent living playing basketball, if not in the NBA, certainly overseas. He's a perfect example of how patience pays off. Too many guys transfer or declare for the draft early, and never develop to their full potential.

I watch Perry's body language on the bench. He doesn't appear to be having a very good time. But just watch him develop over the next year or two. Once Self finally gets him to go all out all of the time, he'll probably leave KU as a first or second team All American. Other guys go to lesser programs, they get to be a 4 year star, then you never hear from them again. Nobody develops players the way Bill Self does. I can't wait to see what he does with a guy like Wayne Seldon.

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nuleafjhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

I didn't read the article because in 54 years, I have never seen the word " prescient ". I don't know what it means. I didn't google it. I don't care.

I just looked at the comments to see if I'm the only one in this group who isn't a wordsmith.

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FarSideHawk 1 year, 4 months ago

There's no one better at finishing in transition on this team than Travis. I think it was early last year (or early the year before) that we were horrible, except for Travis.

EJ should have known that and not messed with that bucket. :) Just like a Lannister always pays his dues, Travis always finishes in transition!

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jhkprd 1 year, 4 months ago

Did anyone else have to look up "prescient"? Nice word, Keegan. Helps an old guy like me with my crossword puzzles. And thanks for the special attention to Releford. I've always like his attitude and work ethic.

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mojayhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Had to love the Travis' 2 back to back steals when EJ 'goal tended' him out of the second bucket. Way to keep him humble, EJ! lol! Great game last night, boys! (sorry about the "boys", I just watched Miracle.

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jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

Travis, once a high flying 2, now is a horizontal 3 that can do vertical take off and landings too.

Travis is the Harrier of 3s--a human jump jet--Mr. Versatile.

Go, Travis, go!!!

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actorman 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm not always a fan of Keegan's writing, but these types of columns that focus on specific players are generally his best, and this is another good one.

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Martin Rosenblum 1 year, 4 months ago

"...making coach look prescient"

"...two dunks, including one of the reverse variety"

Wow! Keegan has dusted off his literary skills!

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chriz 1 year, 4 months ago

Man, this guy seems to "get it" more than anyone else on the team. I love his newfound aggressiveness. Go for the 1000, Relly.

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