Travis Releford.... Next Year Is Here

Jan. 19, 2011


For redshirt sophomore Travis Releford, there is one play in particular that may be a microcosm of his second full season in the Crimson and Blue. On the heels of a steal from teammate Tyrel Reed and a pass from Elijah Johnson, Releford’s windmill dunk propelled the guard from Kansas City to number one on SportCenter’s Top 10 plays on a night that saw Releford’s Jayhawks send UMKC back east onto I-70 on the wrong side of a 99-52 rout.

As Releford wound up for his moment in the spotlight back on January 5, flash bulbs and a chorus of cheers could be seen and heard going off simultaneously inside historic Allen Fieldhouse. For the 20-year old this play was more than just an exclamation point on a victory in a non-conference game, it was a statement that he had arrived.

“It was gratifying to have a moment like that and to be in the spotlight for a second,” Releford said. “It was kind of mellowing down a little bit in the fieldhouse and just I wanted to get the fans back into the game and that’s what did it.”

This play was something Releford could only dream about last year as he took a redshirt in what would have been his true sophomore season because of the limited amount of playing time he would have seen due to an already deep Kansas bench.

“Last year I told him (Travis), if you’re not going to be in our top seven or eight and get a lot of minutes, why don’t you substitute a year in where you have a great chance to start,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self.

“Early on in the (2009-10) season, it was real tough for me,” Releford remembered. “Sitting back watching and not being able to participate was a challenge because coming into the season I didn’t expect to redshirt.”

But that tough decision was made a bit easier due to the kind words from his coach.

“He chose to do that,” Self said. “I think it was a smart move and certainly we’re very thankful that he did that because he works as hard as anybody in this program.”

“As the season went by, I started looking at things differently,” Releford said. “I was getting better and, in the process, building up confidence in my all-around game.”

That game of his is something Releford’s coach sees as a tremendous asset to his redshirt sophomore guard.

“I think he’s just now starting to put it together,” Self said. “He’s going to continue to get better offensively and he’s well on his way to becoming a great defender.”

011911aaa_517_4423842.jpegReleford’s improved confidence was something that came in handy when two very prominent upperclassmen in Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich left Lawrence for the NBA, and in the process handed over the reins to Releford and company.

“They (Collins and Aldrich) told us, don’t let this happen again,” The 6-5 guard said.

‘This’ was the heartbreaking loss that KU suffered to Northern Iowa in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The defeat was something Releford took to heart even though he was not on the court in the final minutes of the contest.

“Last year, it was just as tough losing even though I was a redshirt because I felt like I could have done a little more to have made the team better,” he said. “Now that I am out there, I feel like I can do whatever it takes to keep us on top.”

With a top five ranking and an undefeated record so far, Releford has helped his team do just that. And now that the redshirt sophomore is playing under the bright lights of Allen Fieldhouse again, he relishes every opportunity he gets to showcase his game.

“It feels good to be out there and be able to show all of my talents and the skills that I’ve improved in,” he said.

Judging from his coach’s words, Releford has improved leaps and bounds from where he was a year ago.

“Travis has had a really solid year for us so far, plus he’s shot the ball well,” Self said. “He’s probably our best all-around athlete because we can play him out there in three different positions. He’s gotten a lot better and the redshirt year definitely helped.”

Another aspect of this season the Kansas City product enjoys is soaking in all that playing at the Phog has to offer.

“I get chills every time I run through the tunnel and see the 16,300 fans that come to every game,” he said. “Seeing that intro video and thinking about all the history here, it cannot get any better.”

Now with a play of his own to possibly put on future Jayhawk highlight reels, Travis Releford has surely arrived, but his coach knows this month’s monster dunk will not be the defining moment of his KU career.

“I think the ceiling for Travis is very high because he is just got a nose for the ball,” Self said. “He is a great kid and he will be a huge part of what we do from this point forward.”

With another March run on the horizon, Travis Releford and his new and improved game could very well prove to be the ‘X’ factor in the Jayhawks’ aim to bring a sixth national championship back to Lawrence. If that is the case, fans may be seeing Releford a lot more, both on the court and in future introduction videos to come.