Advertisement

Advertisement

Friday, January 20, 2012

Keegan

Travis Releford excels at ‘little things’

Advertisement

Here’s what’s really cool about Kansas University junior wing Travis Releford: You never hear him say he’s a combination of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Releford arrived on campus as most elite athletes do, eager to play right away. He sat the bench as a freshman and took it like a man. Before his sophomore season started, Releford listened to coach Bill Self tell him that he thinks it would be better for his development to red-shirt because he would be a more developed basketball player and produce more in his fifth year than in his second.

A talented athlete who plays with the aggression of a junkyard dog, Releford is the last guy in the NCAA who would allow an attorney to send out press releases explaining he has been wronged.

For a guy who has produced so well for a basketball program that once had a beat writer grill the coach for a good 10 minutes about the strengths, weaknesses, anticipated tangible and intangible contributions of a walk-on who had averaged 2.4 points per game in junior college basketball, Releford doesn’t have such a thick scrapbook.

Releford doesn’t have to say he’s committed to Kansas. He shows it every day, so nobody ever asks the question. He’s committed to the team. He shows that in every practice, every game, every mandatory team meeting, so nobody ever asks the question.

He enjoys talking about the accomplishments of teammates Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor and did so again before Thursday’s practice.

Releford does a little bit of everything but is the lone starter who doesn’t lead the team in any major official statistical category. Robinson leads in scoring and rebounding, Taylor in minutes, three-point shooting percentage and assists, Jeff Withey in field-goal percentage and blocked shots, Elijah Johnson in steals.

Releford does lead the team in an unofficial statistic tracked by assistant athletic director/media relations Chris Theisen, a category he calls “floorburns.” It’s a subjective statistic that includes hustle plays such as deflections, flying out of bounds to make saves, hitting the floor for loose balls, etc. Releford leads the team with 49, and Robinson is second with 35. Releford and Robinson also share the team lead in charges drawn (four).

“I had no idea,” Releford said. “I didn’t know we were keeping stats in anything like that. I try to do all the little things, do the hustle plays, stop the opponent’s best scorer and rebound, just the little things that help a team to be great.”

The best player he’s ever seen at doing the little things?

“I can’t name one off the top of my head right now,” Releford said.

Of course he can’t. Players don’t aspire to be the best in the game at little things. They want to be great, and they want to win. So they emulate stars. It won’t be his turn to fill that role until next year, so he has figured out how to become as valuable to teammates as possible.

“I would say Travis probably plays with as much energy as anybody,” Self said.

That approach will lead to a paint-peeling Senior Night ovation in 2013 as the end of five years of dedicated service nears. People sure will be sorry to see him go.

Comments

KU_Alumn_2000 2 years, 9 months ago

Great article...Relaford is one of my favorite Jayhawks. He is kind of the X factor in my opinion. He creates chemistry and like Keegan said...does the little things that allows his team to succeed.

This year's Jayhawks is one of my favorite all time teams. No one has given them respect as far as being a national championship contender...and I think that helps them to play harder...more focused...and without fear of choking.

Our bench depth is weak this year...but our starting five is great.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 9 months ago

My guess is that Travis won't be much more of a star next year than he is this year.

That's not to dismiss his ability, contributions, continued develop, or anything like that. It is just a recognition that he is a complimentary player. He will always be the player that shuts down the opposition.

There will be games where Travis lights things up, but mostly he will be a 10-ish ppg scorer getting 5-9 rpg, while Ben, Perry, EJ, ... gets the big pts. Travis will go on being the leader in floorburns and eliminating more points on D than he contributes on O.

IMO

Those are nice digs at CO whiner boy at the beginning, though the self-effacement is a bit forced.

AverageCitizen 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm always happy to see players that sat on the bench for a year or two get their time on the court. Teenagers don't know how fast time flies when they start college but I bet Travis is glad that he took things slowly because he has taken time to build his skills and now it is paying off. He will never regret his time at Kansas and he will be remembered as a great teammate, a great defender and a great Jayhawk!

mojayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Not only has Travis excelled on the court, it's great to see a young man enjoy every minute he plays. He plays hard, and no matter what, seems to have this smile on his face that says "I'm happy to be here and be a part of this team". Way to go Travis.

fansincewilt 2 years, 9 months ago

Releford exemplifies college basketball. Please, no more one and doners. I think we are better off with a Releford scholarship than a Selby one. It is nice to see our Jayhawks in the NBA but the Robinsons, Relefords, Reeds, etc. are my favorites. The Morris twins gave us three years. That is good. The supreme college basketball player of all times is Danny Manning. There are very few like him. I am very pleased to see Releford, a local young man, doing so well.

april28 2 years, 9 months ago

Love all of the comment above. Love Releford. He's the type of guy who is quickly becoming a fan favorite. He won't realize for 20 years what that will mean to his life. Rock Chalk Mr. Releford!

Danny Hernandez 2 years, 9 months ago

Travis took not playing much his frosh year like a man, took a red-shirt his soph year like a man. I never read where he was complaining or jealous of other local players that were playing immediately like his brother. Much like EJ's situation....I remember reading tiger posts where they would say look at Dixon, he plays much more than Travis did and that's why he should have committed to misery. BUT, players like Travis and EJ, know they're playing for a much better program and are willing to bide their time, learn and get better because when their time comes and it will, they'll be thanking their great fortune that they were chosen to play for Kansas University. Travis, here's to you. You're a fine young man and your patience in life will be rewarded.

RCJH

NebraskaJayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Releford reminds me so much of Brandon Rush in that they both developed into shut down defenders. That's not something most players really bring with them when they arrive on campus these days. Most top tier players are focused so much on their offensive ability in high school (because they are the man) that they lack knowledge and are used to being lazy on the defensive side of the ball. I'm not saying we haven't had players that come in and are great defensively (i.e. RusRob / MC), but to me this is a tribute to Releford in the effort and work he as put in throughout his career at Kansas thus far. I really appreciate players like that and he will see that it will pay off for him when he steps up to the next level (which I believe he will do so).

Clarence Haynes 2 years, 9 months ago

Humble young man who laces 'em up and is ready to play!

milehighhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Good article.

Best Jayhawk of the last 30 or so years in that department has to be Jerod Haase. That guy was relentless!

Micah Mandy Haase 2 years, 9 months ago

+1 Guy never gave up when he was on the court.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 9 months ago

Haase was a floor burn magnet.

Part of the difference may be the difference in D focus of the program (Coach Self vs. Roy).

Tony Bandle 2 years, 9 months ago

Totally agree with milehighhawk..when your autobiography is titled "Floor Burns", you need not say more about a person's personality.

Some guys are "over a brick wall" types, some guys are "around a brick wall" types.... Jerod Haase was a "through a brick wall" type.

I can still picture Missouri's Jason Sutherland going after Jerod with one of the most vicious fouls I have ever witnessed either playing on or sitting at a court!!

Sally Presson 2 years, 9 months ago

I'll cry like a baby when Travis is a senior and praise him for his dedication and great play. He's one in a million and is doing so good this year. I admire him so much for sticking with KU and working so hard in such a quiet way. He's a top 10 and a Jayhawk we're all very proud of.

I could hardly make it through Russel Robinson's senior night and Travis' will be the same. Both great players, both great human beings!!

jaybate 2 years, 9 months ago

Yesterday, alohahawk raised some good issues about a post of mine regarding who might start and play, who might back up and who might be redshirted. It made me think a good deal more about things. This is my response.

Aloha,

Perhaps I misspoke. I reckon White would only get redshirted, if Shabazz were to come for a year. On the other hand, Ben Mac might be the one to redshirt to help him with his academics. But Self has a history of red shirting some sharp guys to give them an edge on the books. Not only less bright guys can benefit academically from a red shirt season. If you are smart and redshirting, and don't have to focus on game preparation and the emotional roller coaster of play all season long, I suspect you can, despite the long hours of practice, watch less film, and really load up on courses and leap ahead academically.

Andrew White is reputedly a fine student and would benefit hugely from booking it for a year to ensure he gets ahead on his academics, especially if he were to want to take a challenging academic path, which he probably will want to do. Redshirting early worked well for Brady and Travis, though both redshirted their soph seasons, not their frosh ones. It worked well for Conner and Mario, later on, too, with both rounding out academically, as well as athletically.

Unless you're an OAD, getting a degree before you leave ought to be uppermost in your mind; then you go make the big bucks in the show, or overseas and don't have the degree-getting hanging over your head'; then you come back and catch on in coaching as a grad assistant somewhere without missing a beat, if you want. This and athletic development are why kids and their parents should grab the redshirt, not just the athletic development.

Next, regarding there not being enough trey shooters with my proposed starting line up of EJ, Travis, KY, Justin, and Jeff, I consider EJ a trey shooter that has not yet gotten comfortable. I expect he will come around on the trey the same way Tyshawn has and perhaps do even better, since he started out a better trey shooter than Tyshawn (unless as Slayr suggest, EJ's shoulder injury last season is permanently restricting his stroke).

Further, I believe next year we will find that Travis has a 40% trey gun. He's been playing on a boot without me knowing it and that explains the fall off in his outside shot for sure. During his redshirt year, he said he wired his trey and he appears a trustworthy type you can believe. Self says he has an old man's game now, because the boot prevents him from doing a lot of the herculean bouncey stuff that is his metier. Next year, without a boot, and an off-season to re-groove, he should be a sharp shooter.

jaybate 2 years, 9 months ago

So: we would like to have one more triceratop popper, and KY could be that guy at the 3, or so I suspect. But can he ever defend a 3, if he's getting blown by by 4s? Hard to say. Self needs him at the 4 right now. But wouldn't it be great if we could rotate 6'8 Perry with 6'8" KY at the 3? Staying that long at the 3 would just kill opponents. And when they went super fast at the 3, we just roll Travis over, and run Ben, or Shabazz into the two and stay long there too!

I think Self is learning the joys of perimeter length this season. And once you go long, its hard to go back. Length matters. :-)

Anrio Adams is an unknown to me, but at 6'3" he begins to enter the low end of the long guard threshold, same as Tyshawn. If he is lightening quick, then we know Self will develop him one way or another. Length with speed and quickness and a gun (and swagger) are things Self will go through hell for, because at the end of the suffering is XTReme MUA. To wit, Tyshawn. If Anrio Adams has Tyshawn like speed and a gun, then he and his multiple transcripts will fit the bill perfectly for a talent buffer guy, i.e., a guy who comes in an sits a year getting qualified ilke Traylor and Ben Mac, then wades in with a year more maturity and no loss of eligibility. So: I see Anrio coming, but not playing next season. I believe Self is going to play the "come and sit a year player angle" for all its worth. Really, this is the greatest breakthrough in basketball recruiting in forever. It lets you talent buffer in a big way, because you can then still red shirt these players, too.

Tharpe? Naadir looks really bad right now, but Self keeps sticking him in here and there, so the only inference is this: Naadir is a project Self believes in. He's only playing this season, because Self hasn't got anyone else. But next season he'll be ready to begin a normal maturation process. Next year, he'll probably be good for 10 mpg, junior year, 20 mpg, and senior year it will all depend on how much great guard talent Self attracts, same as was the case for Tyrel Reed. As a senior Naadir will be physically and experientially ready for full time duty. But next season, I think he'll be just good enough to rest EJ 5 minutes per half without the blow bys.

jaybate 2 years, 9 months ago

Self has a great feel for guys' physical and psychological stage of maturity. You can see it with EJ and Trav for two examples. EJ looked like a kid his first season and played like one. EJ looked like a man his second season, but still played like a kid upstairs. Now this season, EJ is all man upstairs and downstairs. Being all man doesn't mean you've arrived. It just means your ready to go through the stresses of arriving. Look at Travis. First year he looked like a man and played like a kid. Next year he red shirted and we don't really know what was going on inside the pupal state. Next year he looked like flipping Lebron, but still played like a kid upstairs. Now this year, he's a man upstairs and downstairs and coming on strong.

Looking at Naadir, he looks very young still. Baby faced just like Tyshawn and Tyrel and Brady did their first years. The difference is that some guys are lightening quick even when they are still babies, as TT was, while others won't speed up without another 2-3 years of maturity and hard weight training.

(Note: when I use the word "baby" it means no disrespect. Its just a fact that each person's mind and body mature at unique rates. Being a baby just means one, or both, elements are not yet mature; not that someone is a brat.)

For a speed burner with a baby mind and body, Self can narrowly scope duties to just what a baby is capable of and he can play, or even start as TT did. But for any baby who is even a little bit slow, D1 speed is just too flipping much. This is what so many board rats fail to recognize about the process of player development. Giving babies lots of minutes won't mature their minds or bodies. If it would, TT would have matured after his freshman season. He didnt, because no one can speed up the physical and psychological clocks in persons.

Self can't scope down the PG duties narrow enough to compensate for Naadir being a baby still. I am quite sure Self wishes he did not have to play Naadir at all this season, not because Naadir isn't doing well, but rather because it is cruel to Naadir, just as it would have been cruel to EJ and Travis to play them before their clocks were ready.

But sometimes Self has to ask players to do things they should not have to do. Travis should not have to play on a boot. Tyrel should not have had to play on a foot needing an operation. Kaun should not have had to play on bum knees. But the unwritten team contract in sports is: the coach has to field the best team he can with what he has. Sometimes injured guys are better than their backups and so he asks them to play. Sometimes there is no one farther along than Naadir and there is no choice but to put him in harm's way.

jaybate 2 years, 9 months ago

I believe Naadir can be a ball player, because he has certain distributing skills that cannot be taught, certain instincts and skills for getting into the paint that cannot be taught. But he is too slow and his stride is too short, and his muscles are not strong enough, to deal with D1 speeds yet. But just because he doesn't do too well now, doesn't mean he won't' be solid, when he matures. And Hudy made a believer out of me with Tyrel Reed regarding development of agility and strength. I doubted that he could ever get his lateral quickness and upper body strength up to D1 standards, but he did midway through his third year. So: while Self could recruit someone that would lead Naadir to be marginalized, I suspect Naadir will be kept and developed and will join the rotation incrementally as Tyrel did. I think one day we will be as amazed by Naadir as we were by Tyrel. The only real unsolvable strike against Naadir right now is his height. But when a guy is not yet fully matured physically, you can't rule out that he may grow an inch or two. Look what happened to bouncy 6'2" EJ. He became long and athletic 6'4" EJ. EJ fully matured poses a much greater set of problems for opponents just because he is long.

Regarding Merv Lindsey, I suspect Self sees a guy with a trey gun you can't teach and a long practice player who is a baby and who will mature sometime over the next two seasons. If Self finds someone better, Merv could be gone, but the chances are that Self will not find someone better than Lindsey at being a buffer player for the next two seasons; that's Merv's role. Merv probably won't be marginalized by an OAD, or even a 4-5 star; that's not the role Self recruited him to fill. Self recruited Merv to fill a role. Its a role of a practice player for two years who will mature physically in two years and then be capable of being a 15-20 minute man, or more if someone departs early, or a targeted recruit doesn't come.

What most of us forget in the excitement of great players considering KU, is that Self needs practice players, regardless. He needs guys with guns that will mature physically into role players down stream to plug the gaps from recruiting failures, and from unexpected jumps.

What Self understands is that the unforeseeable is not the unexpected. Self knows some guys will jump that he does not correctly foresee the timing of. Self knows that some guys he thinks he will sign, will go elsewhere. The only insurance is to build a talent buffer with guys like Merv and Naadir that will be maturing about the time the unforeseeable inevitably happens.

jaybate 2 years, 9 months ago

Though we will never really know the facts of whether Quintrel Thomas and Ty Appleton were squeezed out, or just grew impatient, I believe Self learned a lesson from the Quintrel Thomas and Tyrone Appleton episode. Self got Xavier and CJ in exchange for Quintrel and Ty departing. Yes, Xavier was a missing piece for a year and probably worth it. Yes CJ paid his own way without a ride and made Tyrone seem unnecessary, but then he decided he could not fit in and left.

With 20/20 hindsight it seems clear that KU and Quintrel and Ty would have been better off staying together. Quintrel could have helped us many times last season, even if he would have increasingly sparingly down the stretch. Versus VCU, a fourth fresh big spelling our three bigs exhausted by the previous game of chase against Richmond would almost certainly have guarantied a victory even with our horrible shooting. And Tyrone Appleton could play defense, when he was at KU and would only have gotten better in that regard, and so would have been a great help occasionally during Tyshawn's growing pains and would have allowed Tyrel to rest his sore foot more minutes during games. These seemingly marginal players, if they can be made to feel a part of the system, invariably become vital contributors down stream if they remain a part of the team.

What I suspect Self re-learned from the Quintrel/Tyrone episode is this: these lesser players are worth keeping around for two years down the road, even if big stars can help now.

Self actually said that he wanted Quintrel to stay, but that Quintrel felt he couldn't develop at KU. We'll never know if Self really meant what he said, or was just trying to put a good spin on having squeezed a kid out. But we can say pretty confidently, that whatever he truly meant back when he said those words, he now must realize the wisdom of them after the fact. Guys with the want to, and the basic tools needed for a role player, are just as crucial in their ways as the super stars and the lesser rotation guys.

While everyone points to bad trey shooting, and failures of certain starters against VCU, there is a high probability that one more big and one more guard last season with three years of experience each would have meant a ring instead of an early out.

Rock Chalk!

Jack Wilson 2 years, 9 months ago

Guys that do the little things well can still be a top scorer, too. Most star players also do little things well.

I've seen some start referring to him as the dreaded "glue" guy. That's setting the bar too low for Releford. If Releford would not shy away from opportunities on the offensive end, KU would be even better offensively.

I heard Self saying that this team would never light it up offensively. But Releford asserting himself, taking the opportunities -- not just taking what is given, but taking what can be taken -- taking it, not waiting for the perfect opening -- will improve this team offensively. We've already seen evidence of it.

I trust him with the ball in his hands going to the hoop. He has a nice mid-range game. He is a very good finisher. He passes well on the drive.

This team needs that 3rd major offensive threat.

His defense is fun to watch. The best part is when he cuts off the penetration. He got a cheap foul last game, but I sense that his defensive reputation is giving him more leeway with officials. Like some guys become the designated foul guys .. Wesley (many times for good reason) .. officials know the good defenders and in that split second, assume that he must have the proper position where another guy might not get the non-call. Releford has earned it, because most every time, he is in the right position. One thing that is an excellent teachable point is how he squares up his chest to the dribbler if he's a touch behind. The squared up chest makes it appear he's in position, even if his feet are a bit behind. That's a "little thing" that makes him valuable.

He's a guy that has much more ahead of him as far as opportunity. Can Releford play in the NBA? Darn right he can. He has the terrific foundation of stopper-quality defense and open court ability; he can slash; he's athletic; he passes well; his shooting is improved. Now it's the scoring. If that emerges, he can get there -- not because that is essential, but because it helps gain a bit more attention.

Just don't set the bar too low on this guy.

Kye Clark 2 years, 9 months ago

I agree that we need Releford to assert himself and be that reliable third scorer. Wondering if Self having some set plays drawn up for him early in the game would help him get in the flow more often.

Also agree that he should not be content to be the glue guy. Like you said, just because you do the little things right doesn't mean you can't still be a scorer.

Alex Berger 2 years, 9 months ago

Wow jaybate. That's longer than Keegan's articles. I like your thoughts though.

imzcount 2 years, 9 months ago

So do I. Reading his post(s) give us a much wider perspective on KU basketball. Have a nice day Jaybate!

jaybate 2 years, 9 months ago

Thx and Al and imzcount.

Nice day to you both, also.

Mike Kendall 2 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, and someone said to jaybate, "quit posting!"

And I say, "jaybate, I am the mayor of the water cooler and continue to post, sir!"

KU_Phogified 2 years, 9 months ago

Glad to see Relly get some due as the glue. Great article Mr. Keegan!

Jack Wilson 2 years, 9 months ago

I think I just threw up a little there ......

Suggesting glue is poo, not just him, but for you; Glue doesn't give the man his due; Glue implies he's just make do; Releford can score more than few; If you think this is stupid, well, screw ... uh, good for you.

jakejayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Agree that Travis is representative of what we love about KU Basketball. Patient, smart, tenacious, driven. We are often referred to as "very knowledgeable fans". I believe we demonstrate that by appreciating the value of players like Travis.

As far as another glue guy, is there a better example than Chris Piper? The man paid his dues until his senior season. I have never seen a front court player with better ability to get into optimum defensive position.

Alohahawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Change of topic. If you go to CBSSports.com and click 'College BB', and then click 'Rapid Reports', you can 'filter by': team and pull up a number of quotes for them. The current quotes pertain to upcoming game expectations as well as past game performances. You can pull up previous reports as well.

Just another website for sports news pertaining to college BB.

Didn't interest me, but I believe they have the same setup for college football quotes and news as well.

Mike Kendall 2 years, 9 months ago

Tom--

Another good article on a good man, Travis Releford, aka= "Ghost!" What can you say about the ghost that hasn't already been said? I love the guy. I guess being a former basketball coach, one sees talent where maybe someone is not looking. Travis is so valuable to this team. So is Withey and others. Withey is the most improved but Travis is the hardest worker. And it shows when he is playing lock-down defense. Rock Chalk, Travis!

mosshawk 2 years, 9 months ago

this is not a good article......??????????...For a guy who has produced so well for a basketball program that once had a beat writer grill the coach for a good 10 minutes about the strengths, weaknesses, anticipated tangible and intangible contributions of a walk-on who had averaged 2.4 points per game in junior college basketball, Releford doesn’t have such a thick scrapbook.???????????????

what is this paragraph supposed to mean???

John Randall 2 years, 9 months ago

Sorry to take down your favorite punching bag, but Keegan writes some damn fine articles – not every time, but a high average.

mosshawk, on the other hand, has never contributed a single positive insight or analysis that I can remember. That is an easy average to compute.

actorman 2 years, 9 months ago

"Releford does lead the team in an unofficial statistic tracked by assistant athletic director/media relations Chris Theisen, a category he calls 'floorburns.'"

WTF??? You act like it's some newfangled concept that Chris Theisen came up with, not a term that was used years ago and that Jerrod Haase wrote a book about. Yes, it's great that TR gets so many floorburns, but you should have written about it in a way that didn't seem like you were introducing a brand new idea to the Jayhawk public.

John Randall 2 years, 9 months ago

No, I have to disagree. Keegan didn't act like there was anything new or special about the term. He left it up to you for that misinterpretation.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.