Sunday, January 20, 2013

Family man: KU’s Travis Releford relishes fatherhood

Kansas University senior Travis Releford, left, poses for a family portrait with 2-year-old son T.J. and girlfriend Jennifer Covell. Travis grew up without his father — in jail for second-degree murder — and vowed Travis Junior won’t suffer the same fate.

Kansas University senior Travis Releford, left, poses for a family portrait with 2-year-old son T.J. and girlfriend Jennifer Covell. Travis grew up without his father — in jail for second-degree murder — and vowed Travis Junior won’t suffer the same fate.



Contributed Photo

Kansas University senior Travis Releford, left, poses for a family portrait with 2-year-old son T.J. and girlfriend Jennifer Covell. Travis grew up without his father — in jail for second-degree murder — and vowed Travis Junior won’t suffer the same fate.

Travis Releford hustled out of Allen Fieldhouse on the evening of Jan. 2, 2011, after collecting five assists and three rebounds while failing to score in a 27-point rout of Miami of Ohio.

Then a Kansas University sophomore, his mission was to drive — make that speed — from Lawrence to Overland Park Regional Medical Center in time to join his girlfriend, Jennifer Covell, for the birth of their baby boy.

“He was delivered right after I got to Kansas City,” Travis said of T.J. (Travis, Jr.) Releford. “I was happy. I was shocked. I really can’t express how I felt. I was so happy I made it there in time. It was, ‘Wow, I have a son. It’s a little me.’”

Travis might have missed the arrival of T.J. if not for his caring girlfriend.

“I didn’t want him to miss the game,” Covell said, “(but) I was starting to get nervous he might not make it. My mom kept trying to get hold of him. I didn’t start pushing until he was close, until he was about 10 minutes away. Travis got there at 9:30 (p.m.). T.J. was born at 9:47 (p.m.).”

Travis made a solemn vow as he wiped away tears of joy at the hospital.

“I said I’d make a change in how fathers have been in the history of my family. I made that promise I’d be there for T.J. every day. Since Day One, I have been,” Travis said in an interview with the Journal-World conducted two weeks after T.J.’s second birthday.

Releford holds no ill will against his own dad.

In fact, he speaks with Tracy Releford almost every day — by phone. Tracy has spent the last 20 years in Crossroads Correction Center in Cameron, Mo., where he is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.

“He’s seen me play. He gets to watch me on TV, but he’s never physically been there,” the 22-year-old Releford said of Tracy, who recently had his annual parole hearing and still has hope he’ll be released in time to see Travis play a game in Allen Fieldhouse and see Travis’ brother, Trevor, play a game at the University of Alabama, where he’s a junior point guard.

“I have a son I would hope one day would grow up and play basketball, too, and I want to coach him and help him out along the way. It means a lot to have a son, especially from how I grew up not having my dad around,” Travis added. “My mom had the same problem. She didn’t have her dad there. Through our generation, it’s been like that. I wanted to make sure I could change that. I’m there every day for my son. I see him every day, and I’m here to watch him grow and teach him.”

Proud papa

Releford, a 6-foot-6 senior out of Roeland Park’s Bishop Miege High, lives in Jayhawker Towers with roommate/teammate Christian Garrett. However, Travis spends most of his free time with his girlfriend and son at their apartment, conveniently located in Lawrence.


Contributed Photo

Kansas' Travis Releford bathes son T.J.

Travis understandably is proud of his son.

“He just went to the doctor’s (office). He was 99 or 98 percentile in height and 92 or something in weight. The chances of him being tall are very good,” Travis said, noting Jennifer, a KU senior, is 5-foot-10, Jennifer’s dad 6-5, Travis’ mom 5-7 and Travis’ dad, 5-9.

“He likes sports. He’s throwing balls, kicking balls, hitting them with whatever he can find. He’s all over the place,” Travis added.

Though Travis can’t remember his son’s first words — “I think it was ‘da-da,” he said — T.J.’s vocabulary is definitely growing.

“He sees me in pictures. He’ll go point to them and say, ‘Da-da,’ or he’ll see the Jayhawk bird and be like, ‘Jayhawk, Jayhawk,’” Releford said. “I think he knows the Rock Chalk Chant. We’ve been teaching him that since he was a few months old. He was just listening. Then all of a sudden he started mumbling and getting clearer. I think his favorite part is the end when they say, ‘Whoo.’ He looks forward to that.”

T.J. attends KU’s home games and sits in a section with family members of the Jayhawk players located on the lower level, southwest bleachers.

Jennifer and T.J. usually sit in the same row as Travis’ mom, Venita, who lives in Lawrence and works at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, plus Travis’ two sisters (Tamara and Katelin) and brother June, who is a sophomore on Free State High’s hoops team.

“He’s waved, pointed, actually tried to get down on the court,” Travis said of T.J.

Proud of papa

T.J. has become quite a fan of his daddy, who is a fifth-year senior starter who averages 12.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while also playing a role as the Jayhawks’ defensive stopper.

“Every time we go to a game and they go to the free-throw line, he says, ‘Whoosh,’” Covell said. “He does the cheers and chants. Every time we drive by the fieldhouse, he knows it’s the fieldhouse and says, ‘Jayhawk.’”


Contributed Photo

T.J. Releford plays video games with his dad, Travis Releford.

Jennifer says that T.J. is a “brilliant” child who looks like he’s 4, not 2.

‘“Eat’ is one of his favorite words because that’s all he does. He likes noodles, junk food, juice, candy. He eats almost all the junk I eat. His favorite food is probably waffles or mac and cheese,” Releford said.

Travis actually is a softie in supplying T.J. what he wants/needs, says Releford’s Towers roommate.

“It’s cool to watch ‘Trav’ spend time, hang out with T.J. when he’s not playing,” Garrett said. “T.J. is always around, making a mess, having fun. Travis is a great dad. He really wants to be a great father to T.J. and is doing a good job being there, showing love. I think when the season is over, he’s going to experience a whole new level what it’s like to be a dad. He’s growing up fast in it. He’s doing well.”

Garrett said the funniest thing, “is a lot of times I’m not there, and T.J. sleeps in my bed. So the little guy is in my room. We joke that T.J. is taking my spot as his roommate.

“Sometimes I feel like an uncle. I think everybody on the team feels like an uncle to the cutest kid I’ve ever seen. He’s so cute and cool. Everyone says, ‘That’s our little nephew,’” Garrett added.

‘A special thing to see’

One of Releford’s mentors — his AAU coach L.J. Goolsby of KC Run GMC — says he simply loves watching Travis and T.J. together.

“It’s a special thing to see,” Goolsby said. “Travis loves T.J. and wants to be a role model for him, especially as he (T.J.) gets older. Unfortunately, (Travis) didn’t have that father in his life. He doesn’t want that to be the case with T.J. It’s awesome to see how he treats him, acts around him, the way they act around each other.”

T.J. already has bonded with another child of a KU player — Amara Grace Tharpe, who lives in Worcester Mass., but visits her dad, KU sophomore Naadir Tharpe, from time to time.


Contributed Photo

Travis, left, and T.J. Releford share a father-son bonding moment.

“He calls her, ‘Baby.’ He knows she’s just a baby,” Releford said of the 1-year-old.

“He takes care of her. He gives her her bottle, binkie,” Covell added.

Travis said his own son inspires him and has made him consider his own future.

The plan is to play in the NBA or overseas after this season, and after his playing days are finished to pursue coaching as a career.

“There are so many good things. I can’t point out anything bad about being a dad,” said Releford, who has teamed with his girlfriend — a former KC Winnetonka High basketball, tennis and soccer standout — to make sure their class schedules allow somebody to be with T.J. at all times.

As students not yet in the workforce, they can’t afford the cost of day care.

“Some people think, ‘Ah, he (Travis) is in school and has a kid, and that could be the worst thing.’ I don’t think it’s the worst thing that could ever happen, especially the great situation I’m in with his mom and the way I handled it,” Travis said. “It hasn’t taken anything away from school or me performing on the court. I feel this has made me want to work harder so once I leave here I know he and my family will be taken care of.”


William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

Anyone else (besides me) miss Frank Martin?

But then... I miss Bobby Knight.

Guess I'm old school... where you aren't being coached unless a coach is biting your head off for just about anything.


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

I got no problem with the "wooo", as it adds drama and gravity, in a theatrical sort of way... I'm fine with it, but thats just imho...RCJH


Steve Gantz 1 year, 2 months ago

Since Jaybate's trying to get us fired up for tomorrow here's a little story: When Bruce Weber was coaching at Illinois his brother was coaching a high school kid at Glenbrook North (or south, forget which). He had one of the nations' top players Jon Scheyer. Slam dunk easy recruiting for Weber right? Wrong Scheyer went to Duke. A lot of Illinois people just assumed Scheyer was theirs by virtue of Webers' brother coaching him. This guy's not going to make it at KSU.


greg robinson 1 year, 2 months ago

I still think our biggest concern is the "whoo" during the Rock Chalk chant.


KansasComet 1 year, 2 months ago

I am happy for Travis Releford. He seems to be doing quite well on and off the court. KSU game coming up. This should be a good game. These are the type of games that Kansas needs. I said before the beginning of the season, that we are a top 5 team and I stand by that. For all those that said EJ is not playing well and we need Naadir Tharpe in the starting lineup, I respectfully disagree. How can you turn on EJ so quickly? Where is the commitment through the good times and bad times? Now that is not the way to stay married, is it?


nostradavid 1 year, 2 months ago

Great story, Gary. Thanks. The pictures show a fine family.


jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

"Some Memorable Quotes by Bruce Weber Since Bruce Read the Quotes of General George S. Patton"

"We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or hire Bill Self.

"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody is thinking like me and that isn't thinking."

"A mediocre plan poorly executed now is better than a mediocre plan executed next week."

"The object of coaching is not to outsmart your opponent, but to make your opponent outsmart you."

"Accept the doubts so that you can feel the anxiety of uncertainty."

"Don't tell people how to play the game, tell them you're not as smart as Bill Self and let them surprise you with their results."

"KStaters play to not quite succeed at all times. I wouldn't give a hoot and hell for a Wildcat who finished second confidently. That's why KStaters have never won a ring nor ever lost with dignity."

"Mediocrity is doubt holding on a minute longer."

(Note: All fiction. No malice.)


jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

Hey, every body, this is the 'bate typin'.

We got a big game against a small rival upcoming.

I wrote some funny stuff to try to divert this thread and it didn't seem to work. I will of course try for funny bone again, but you b-rats gotta meet me half way.

I reckon there is not much more to Trav's situation than what the story says and there is not much call for any of us to get worked up about it one way or the other.

I just figured the story was run to kind of protect Trav and the program and pre-empt hostile KSU signage in Kraplage Mausoleum about KU players with children out of wedlock.

Everyone knows this is a sensitive subject with people on lots of fronts.

The idea is to hang together as the Jayhawk nation, and not let some belly crawlers over in Kraplage upset anyone's apple cart, especially Travis'.

Travis, the young woman and the child are who need protection here.

Trav is still pretty young. I am old as Potters Lake silt and I can still get my feelings jumbled about things in my private life. And I don't have to "play through" them. The young man is carrying a man's load on the floor, in school, and at home.

We must not let the threats of belly crawlers in purple deter us from the appointed task.

Cheer for Travis and his band of ballers.

Destroy K-State.


Rock Chalk!


Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Six words should sum it up for all of you.

"Judge not lest ye be judged."


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Yep, typical Kansas, see about 80% of posts above: people too easily straying into Travis' personal life decisions, when sticking their nose in that is none of anyone's business. Human interest story does not mean moral judgement story. I might expect some comments after some illegal (Brady's DUI) or reprehensible act (CJ Gile), but not after this type of story. We dont have all the facts. Dont know if she is a promisee or fiancee, who knows...none of my business. Take care of your own, people! And let Travis Releford be a positive example for those that are unable to take care of their own...


jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

"Some Rumored KSU Signs that ESPN Will Probably Not Show the Viewing Audience"

~"Beware All Who Enter the Octogon: Wildcat Spore Tastes Good."

~"Wildcats Eat Their Young When Overstimulated; then Lose Bowl Games."

~"KSU Cheerleaders Act as Surrogate Mothers for Cattle Embryos: Go Cheerleaders!"

~"Smoking a Bale of Blue Stem Will Take You Higher Than Meth, But Not as High as Eating Bull Biscuits Soaked in Anhydrous Ammonia"

~"Canzaz Stayt Spellin' TeEm Winz NCHayHay"

~"KSU: First in Chem-Bio Autoexperimentation"

~"Purple Is the Color of Championship Frustration"

~"KSU Scientists Genetically Modify Ecoli to Produce Manure"

~"Visit the KSU Spore Sculpture Garden Outside Bramlage: Go Right Till You Smell It, Left Till You Step in It"

~"Forrest Gump New KSU Chancellor: Spore Is as Spore Does"

~"KSU Professor Discovers Biodegradeable Substitute for Metal Fence Posts: Wood

~"KSU Prof Studies Interim Coach Weber: Wins Nobel for Mediocrity Theory"

(Note: All fiction. No malice.)


milehighhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Lotta people dispensing life advice here.



Good going, Trav.


Steve Gantz 1 year, 2 months ago

Fathers matter. Travis is doing his best with a far less than ideal role model. Interesting to compare his situation to his teammate Traylor.

It's interesting that the people criticizing those wanting him to get married don't see that we are giving him advise that will help him, not hurt him. Marriage is great we're trying to say. It's great for your kids, it's great for yourself and your partner. It's great for society.


greg robinson 1 year, 2 months ago

I only have one problem with this story. Travis, before it's too late. Stop your son from saying "whoo" during the Rock Chalk chant!


Randy Maxwell 1 year, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.


jayhawker010 1 year, 2 months ago

The amount of people telling Travis on the comment thread to "do the right thing" and marry her are making me laugh. As if he will read your comment and suddenly come to the realization that the way he wants to live his life and the way he and his girlfriend conduct their relationship is morally wrong and that they must change right away. How Travis conducts his personal life is not only his decision, but it is no one else's business to comment on. Shame on all of you for thinking that you know how to live Travis Releford's life better than Travis Releford knows.


jayhwkr77 1 year, 2 months ago

People need to quit telling Travis to marry her. If that's what they WANT to do, and what they think would would work the best for them, than that's what they should do.

But I don't understand why anyone on this message board thinks they have the right, or wisdom, to tell him and her how to live their lives. 50% of marriages in this country end in divorce, so them getting married really doesn't guarantee anything.

How about we tell our athletes to continue striving to be great models, and let the two of them decide what kind of relationship works best for them and the baby.


Ben Kane 1 year, 2 months ago

I love listening to everyone tell a young man how he should live his life. He wants to be a great father and I think that's great. however, all this get married or not stuff is none of our business. Your ethos doesn't have to be someone else's and you shouldn't force it on him. Clearly Trav is doing great and it's wonderful to hear.


MrPilot 1 year, 2 months ago

Congratulations on your beautiful family, Travis. You sound like a terrific father.


esque 1 year, 2 months ago

Perhaps both Travis and his girlfriend are waiting til after graduation to get married as the article indicates she also is a student. Once gainfully employed, he then can fully honor any commitment to provide for a wife and child as marriage requires.

The most challenging obstacle he's already met which is recognizing the impact being raised without a father can have on a family. His own words indicate his determination to break that cycle and ensure his child has the best possible chance to develop and succeed in this world with his guidance and influence, support etc.

I would hope that all of us continue to support him without the judging and proselytizing as there is more than one path through life. He seems like a great kid which is why we all like him, he's always carried himself very well and I expect he'll continue to present a positive image of the program and university.


oldalum 1 year, 2 months ago

Has anyone ever thought that maybe Travis wants to get married and the girl doesn't?


HawkKlaw 1 year, 2 months ago

Oh look everybody, it's a bunch of religious do-gooders judging the s*** out of a decent human being again.


lv_jhwk 1 year, 2 months ago

Wow...the sanctimonious smugness of some people never ceases to amaze me.

Read the article again and you'll see that Travis seems to be doing everything to be expected of a true father. The lack of a signed certificate or "Official Blessing From Above" isn't a hindrance to TJ's upbringing in any way.


onetime_77 1 year, 2 months ago

as the dad of a 5 and 3 year old, I can say I am very impressed at how Trav has taken on being a dad. You can ask anyone around him, this article is about as true as it gets. He loves to be around his son any moment he can. When little T was born I wondered how it would affect his school and playing, and it hasn't in the least. It's been great watching Travis mature from a HS sophomore to where he is today.


Raydude 1 year, 2 months ago

Gary, Check the height of Travis' Father. Height and intelligence are polygenic, and will be a composite of the genes of both parents. You said the grandfather(Travis father) was 5' 10"? Son (Travis 6'6") and that TJ was in 98%tile.


Ferd Magellan 1 year, 2 months ago

Great dad. I couldn't imagine juggling my studies, elite level basketball and fatherhood at the same time. His pro career (likely overseas) will probably be easier than his college life.


iowajhawk81 1 year, 2 months ago

Good for you Travis, congratulations on your son and on what looks like a wonderful family. Don't let all the proselytizing from the KU Sports morality police diminish the commitment you have made to you child, and his mother.


jdpl 1 year, 2 months ago

I wish I had noted that Travis had a younger brother at Free State so I would have watched for him at the recent McPherson tourney that Free State was part of.


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

A true Jayhawk family. Love it. RCJH, Travis, TravisJr, and Jennifer!!


Mike Del Vecchio 1 year, 2 months ago

Didn't Pollard propose at Late Night? Big props Trav! Awesome story.


Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Oh my goodness. my wonderful Mom had a whole bunch of those "getting a bath in the sink with your little member hanging out" photos!! It's good to see some things never change.[except my member, thank God].

No moral judgements from this poster....their committment to their son and each other is enough for me.

T.J....start practicing that defense footwork and your three pointer!!


William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

This is my favorite story on KUsports this year!

Basketball is a splendid game, but it has it's place as a doorway into real life; and this story is about real life!

Congrats, Travis!


GrammarPolice 1 year, 2 months ago

very well said.... all the kid needs is his mother and father to be committed to him and to be happy.


Ron Franklin 1 year, 2 months ago


Getting married does not prove anything to your son. He does not care if you sign nuptials. He doesn't care if you go to Vegas or if you get married in a Temple.

The only thing that matter is the relationship and bond that you develop with your partner and your child. Demonstrate love, and educate him on the beauty of this miracle we have all been given when we entered this universe. Teach him right from wrong and follow through with consequences, just as Coach Self does for you. Teach him to love humanity and to work every day to make our world better. Let him make mistakes, and help him work through them when he cannot. Openly love your partner and show your son you are filled with love for her. Your daily actions, over time, will be much more impactful on your son than one single day where you make a 'commitment'.

Make a commitment everyday that you wake up to nourish, love, and protect your family, and you will be fine.


farnamjayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Glad to see that the interior of the Towers hasn't changed in 20 years


FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Doing the right thing means getting married first, then having a child. Unfortunately, this is the way the younger generation does things today. The greatest desire a child can have and the greatest security he will have is knowing that his dad loves his mom. The proof of that is making a marriage commitment. It's easy to say your going to make a commitment, it's another thing to actually do it, Come on Travis, make that commitment.


Andy Tweedy 1 year, 2 months ago

When I saw the black and white picture (and didn't look real close), I figured it was a picture of Travis' parents, and thought "Damn, that dude just looks just like his dad!" I should look closer next time.


HawksWin 1 year, 2 months ago

Trav, Doing the right thing will always takes more effort, time & commitment. Marry the mother of your son - show him how a man does it. Teach your son how to love his wife, his family & his life with your actions & decisions. Marriage has taken a bad wrap and the media is telling the youth to discount it, of its value and tradition. Love has become an instant gratification in the eyes of media & our culture. What is not addressed is that broken marriages lead to broken families and the result is a broken society for our future generations. Our actions today have consequences for our young. Everybody makes and will continue to make mistakes in life, but it takes a man to correct his mistake. Be a man Trav. And once married, stick to and by her. God bless you & your beautiful family.


jhox 1 year, 2 months ago

Really cute little boy. I'm glad they're already brainwashing him with all things Jayhawk. With all of the height and athleticism in his family, hopefully he can wear a Jayhawk uniform someday. Maybe they can get Hudy and Goolsby working with him at a very young.


Eybea Opiner 1 year, 2 months ago

How sweet. If you want to "be there" for your son marry his mother. Raise the kid in a family where there is a commitment to stability. Where the father and mother are together, sharing the responsibilities of managing a home. If not, the child is no better off than if he were to be raised in a home broken by divorce.


ahpersecoachingexperience 1 year, 2 months ago

I smell the first senior night proposal


stm62 1 year, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.


jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

Could be wrong, but this seems like one of those pre-emptive stories you run before going to a hostile gym.

In any case, more power to Trav, his significant other, and his son. Beautiful couple. And a beautiful baby.


milwaukeeJAYHAWK 1 year, 2 months ago

Great story! I didn't know he had a son. Is neat seeing other sides of players.

I have a 2-year old son, too. It's not hard to be proud of your little man when they grow up so fast and emulate everything you do. He sounds like a great pops.

Best of luck to Travis!


Alohahawk 1 year, 2 months ago

The human nature stories about Jayhawk players (such as the one which recently appeared about Traylor on ESPN) are always an interesting contrast to the on court/practice side of Jayhawk sports. If anything was mentioned previously that Travis had a son, I must have missed it. Thanks, Gary, for adding to our appreciation for a great Jayhawk and father.

And, congratulations to Travis for having the desire to 'be there' for your son, which, unfortunately, your father hasn't been able to. Would love to hear your name announced during the next NBA draft. Hmmm. Sixteen years from now the Jayhawk Nation might be cheering for another Travis Releford in AFH.


chriz 1 year, 2 months ago

Beautiful family, Trav. Now make that commitment and marry the woman, don't cheat on her even when you feel like it, and love her even when you don't feel like it. Have a few more kids, keep loving your kids like you are, and show the world what it really means to carry the Releford name. You're a man. You're a daddy. Soon, hopefully, you'll be a husband.


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