With a stable school environment and good people in his corner, the stage was set for Travis Releford to turn his national attention into scholarship offers. In order to get as much exposure as possible during the summer he’d joined up with L.J. Goolsby’s KC Pump ‘N Run after his freshman season.
Now that he has three seasons of summer ball under his belt, Releford looks back on his decision to trust Goolsby as a great move both on and off the court.
“He’s just gotten me around the right people and I think he put me in the right situations to be looked at by certain people and colleges, that helped me out a lot,” Releford says. “Outside of that he’s given me advice on school work and about making things easier for myself. The relationship goes beyond basketball.”
After playing all over the country and attracting attention from schools from coast to coast, Releford committed to Kansas in June. Not only was Bill Self’s program close to home and a traditional national power, the Jayhawks were also the first school to extend a scholarship offer and the opportunity to attend college isn’t something that is going unappreciated.
“I thought going to college was something that I wanted to do and that going to Kansas would be a good move for me,” Releford says of his decision to be a Jayhawk. “I’m really excited, I think I’m going to be the first one from my family to go to college and play ball.”
Not surprisingly, fans are eagerly awaiting his arrival in Lawrence and can’t wait to see him don a Kansas jersey for the first time. According to Releford, they can expect to see a versatile player.
“I’m a defender and a slasher, if I keep working on my jumper I think I’ll be able to do everything. Sometimes I see a LeBron or Kobe and I want to try and be like that because they play my position,” says Releford when asked to describe his game. “There’s things that Kobe does that I look at and things LeBron does that I look and say that’s some stuff I need to work on.”
Releford also concedes that it’s easy to compare him to a current Jayhawk and another Kansas City product.
“If you ask anybody else they’d probably say I play a little like Brandon Rush,” answers Releford when asked who others compare him to. “I’ll probably come in and play the same position he played, we’re both the same height, and we’re both from Kansas City so it’s an easy comparison.”
Regardless of which comparison anybody might prefer, there’s no lack of confidence in the future Jayhawk. In fact, he sees himself helping out sooner than later.
“I think I’m going to be an impact player because I’m going to come in and try and stop the best scorer on the other team,’ says Releford. “Of course I’m going to score and do the other things. If I come to work, I could see myself as a starter.
“A lot of players are going to be leaving after this year. If I work hard and do what I’m told, I could be a starter. I think I can hang with them.”
However, the promise of a college education and the chance to play for a top program in front of adoring fans doesn’t mean that there’s any less pressure on Releford. It’s just changed the type of pressure he faces.
“It’s a lot of pressure, everybody’s looking for me to not mess up so that I can carry them,” says Releford. “I think they hope that I can get the best of college, make the NBA and take care of my family.”
Taking care of his family is precisely what he’d like to be able to do one day and because of that he can’t help but dream of playing in the NBA as soon as possible.
“Playing in the NBA is my dream. If everything works out and I go to college and things go as they could and I do what I’m supposed then I could possibly leave early, but it’s not like I’m against staying four years and getting a degree,” Releford says of his hopes to play for big money. “But if it comes around, it doesn’t happen very often and you have to take that chance. If you don’t you might not get it again.
While he dreams of one day drawing an NBA paycheck, Releford is quick to point out that he can’t get too far ahead of himself. After all, he’s still got a senior season of high school left and there’s much to accomplish before graduation day in May.
“I just want to take over games, some people haven’t seen that in me,” says Releford of his senior season plans. “Since this is my last year I want to leave it all out on the court. That and winning state, those are my two goals for this season.”
The reality of it all is that Releford doesn’t need a state championship to validate himself as a winner. Instead, the decisions he’s made, the work he’s put in to succeed and his dedication to staying on the right path proved that he was a winner long ago.
Perhaps even more importantly Releford has found an environment that he belongs in and it’s one that might have seemed unlikely years ago.
“At school, all people talk about is what college they are going to and stuff like that,” says Releford with pride. “Now I get to be in the conversation because I’m going to college too and it feels pretty good.”
Editor's note: This wraps up our three-part feature from the November issue of Jayhawk Illustrated on Travis Releford. In case you missed them, here's Part I and Part II.