Like a lot of others trying to make the most of life during the coronavirus pandemic, Reid Travis has dealt with dramatic adjustments.
On a recent morning, this 6’8″ Stanford graduate, who spent his last college basketball season at Kentucky, was working tirelessly on shooting drills at the Sanford Pentagon with Shane Hennen, coordinator of the Sanford POWER Basketball Academy.
Travis is a former Minnesota star from DeLaSalle High School who just spent the better part of a year playing professionally in Germany for Medi Bayreuth. He is set to begin next season with the Shimane Susanoo Magic in Japan’s top professional league.
His story — the reason he’s improving his game in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, rather than his native Twin Cities or Los Angeles — goes through Hennen. It also involves Travis’ efforts to take a holistic approach to becoming good enough to someday land a spot on an NBA roster.
“One of the things that drew me to Sanford was that there are some other places where you are just a number,” Travis said. “You’re thrown into a workout group and you’re just another guy working out for the summer. But I felt like everyone here went the extra mile to make this feel comfortable and make it feel like home.”
Travis makes a phone call
It all began when Travis was looking for ways to improve while playing in Germany. Long-range development is not a high priority in most European leagues. The focus is on the team and winning games.
With a two-week break in the schedule coming up during the 2019-20 season, Travis began calling athletic trainers he’d worked with in the past. He wanted to find someone who would come to Germany and work with him for those two open weeks.
Granted, it was a tough request. Eventually, though, he made contact with Hennen. Travis learned quickly that Hennen’s reputation for developing players went well beyond the Sanford Health footprint.
“Shane was all about it,” Travis said. “He wanted to get started as soon as possible. A week and a half later he was on the flight to Germany. We really built a great friendship right away — and I got a chance to see how skilled and talented he was as a trainer.”
When the pandemic put an end to the season in Germany, Travis had arranged to spend his development time in Los Angeles. His rapport with Hennen, however, made him change his mind.
“Shane had been telling me when we were in Germany that the Sanford facilities were crazy — the best he’d seen,” Travis said. “So I just took a leap of faith and trusted him.”
It helped explain the scene on a recent morning at the Pentagon. Hennen put Travis through several drills again and again. There was really no let-up. It demonstrated both Travis’ resolve in becoming a better player as well as Hennen’s commitment to helping this 24-year-old get there.
“The best thing we have to offer him are our facilities and the people inside the facilities,” Hennen said. “When Reid goes to these other places for these things there is a lot of logistical issues — traveling from place to place, setting up times, etc. Here, it’s all in one spot.”
Instead of dealing with a pile of morning traffic, Travis can get out of bed and get in a focused workout with the Sanford strength staff. Then he can move on to basketball without getting in his car. After have lunch he can take a nap and do it again.
“The people here at Sanford like to dive really deep into the craft,” Hennen said. “They know what they’re doing. They aren’t just putting Reid through random stuff.”
Travis’ background suggests that anything purpose-driven is going to appeal to him. His academic-based choice of Stanford for school would be evidence of that.
Four years later — he was granted another year of eligibility after an injury-shortened sophomore season — he had a degree in science, technology and society. He open-enrolled at Kentucky for his final year of eligibility and is now well on his way to a master’s degree.
He is also a vegetarian. For more than a year now he’s fueled himself and his workouts with a plant-based diet.
It’s definitely been a challenge. He admits to really enjoying a good steak in the old days. But the benefits have been significant.
“I dealt with a lot of chronic pains — knee injuries flaring up after hard workouts and after games,” Travis said. “So I did a lot of reading about a plant-based diet.”
There are several NBA proponents, most prominently Chris Paul of the Oklahoma Thunder.
While eating broccoli and cauliflower aren’t going to automatically improve a three-point shot, the plant-based plan is definitely getting Travis closer to his goals by making him leaner and more athletic.
He now bounces back from tough workouts more quickly, in addition to being quicker overall.
“It was getting so that I couldn’t really walk after a hard game,” Travis said. “I knew I needed to change something up. I’ve felt great ever since.”
Finding restaurants that serve a decent plant-based meal can be difficult to find. As a result he eats at home often. Veggie wraps remain his go-to dish.
“For lunch, I’ll go with something easy, like a spinach tortilla,” Travis said. “Then I’ll put in mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and rice. Or maybe like a veggie hash, which is kind of a meat substitute. Then for dinner I’ll go with veggie bowls and things like that.”
In his mind, the benefits of taking the vegetarian route far outweigh the sacrifices.
“At first it was tough, but when I thought about how much better I feel, I was able to get through it,” Travis said. “I think I’ve jumped over the wall. I don’t really crave the things I used to eat anymore. Overall, it’s been smooth sailing.”
Travis family sets the path
Within the Twin Cities area, the sons and daughters of Nathaniel and Jacqueline Travis are known for their distinctive accomplishments in academics as well as athletics.
Travis’ oldest brother Jonah played basketball for four years at Harvard. His sister Olivia is going to be playing basketball at Illinois-Springfield this year. His younger brother Jalen will be a freshman football player at Princeton next fall and his youngest sister, Grace, is a standout volleyball player at DeLaSalle High School.
“I have to give my older brother a lot of credit,” Travis said. “My parents were pretty tough on him. He graduated from Harvard and played basketball for four years so he set the tone for the rest of us. I really didn’t have any choice after seeing how hard he worked. It’s a little crazy. I’m just grateful we’ve all been successful.”
In other words, he’s not afraid of putting forth effort in exchange for positive results. Well-placed inconveniences can be viewed as opportunity when that’s the philosophical foundation.
Getting comfortable with discomfort
“It doesn’t matter if you’re Reid Travis or just some little kid – if you’re willing to make mistakes and look silly sometimes, if you’re willing to be comfortable in getting out of your comfort zone, that’s where you really start to see development,” Hennen said. “That’s where Reid is great. He’s one of those guys who trusts your work. He’s bought into the development plan.”
The circumstances created by the pandemic definitely qualify as pushing everyone out of their comfort zone. For Travis, looking for opportunities to establish an NBA presence is littered with question marks these days.
“It’s been tough but the most important thing for me has been to be here working out,” he said. “Sitting at home for a month and half before I came here was the toughest thing — your mind is racing as far as what’s next. What has helped for me is being here all day taking care of my body. It’s been nice to take my mind off the rest of it.”
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