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.