What coveted Stanford grad transfer Reid Travis brings to Kentucky

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaab/players/126433/" data-ylk="slk:Reid Travis">Reid Travis</a> (22) averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in 2017 at Stanford. He will play his final year at Kentucky. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Reid Travis (22) averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in 2017 at Stanford. He will play his final year at Kentucky. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

College basketball’s most coveted free agent has found a home.

Reid Travis, a graduate transfer from Stanford, announced Wednesday that he will finish his collegiate career playing for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.

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His addition is a big deal for Kentucky — and college basketball in 2018-19 as a whole. Kentucky will likely enter next season as the No. 1 team in the country.

Who is Reid Travis?

After dealing with injuries early in his time at Stanford, Travis, a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, finally lived up to his billing as a top 50 recruit over the last two years for the Cardinal.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, Travis, a 6-foot-8 power forward who is a force in the low post, averaged 17.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game while shooting 58 percent from the field. In 2017, he put up 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest while expanded his shooting range beyond the three-point line.

After those back-to-back first-team all-Pac-12 seasons, Travis had a decision to make. He could declare for the NBA draft, return to Stanford as a fifth-year senior, or pursue a graduate transfer. After Stanford was knocked out of the NIT in the second round, Travis declared for the NBA draft, but did so without signing with an agent. Hours before the deadline to keep his name in the draft, Travis, who has never played in the NCAA tournament, withdrew his name from the process and made it known he would pursue a fifth year at another school.

Kentucky immediately became one of the favorites to land his services. And after a recent campus visit and Travis’ graduation from Stanford, the two sides made it official.

“I’m looking forward to a fresh start and another year of working towards my dreams. As I move on to the next step of my career, I wanted to find a school that will continue to align with my academic and athletic interests. After getting to know the staff and players on my visit, it became clear to me that there was no better place for me to start this next journey in my life then at the University of Kentucky,” Travis said in a university release.

“I’m excited to work hard every day and give everything of myself to the program to compete for a national championship and turn the game I love into a profession. Big Blue Nation, I can’t wait to get started.”

How will Reid Travis fit in Kentucky’s lineup?

Kentucky lost five players — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt — to the NBA draft. Two others, Sacha Killeya-Jones (NC State) and Tai Wynyard (Santa Clara), transferred. Clearly, as his been customary in Lexington in recent years, there was plenty of turnover on the UK roster.

So where does Travis fit in?

In the front court, Kentucky returns P.J. Washington, a 6-foot-7 forward who averaged 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, and 6-foot-10 center Nick Richards (5.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg). Both will be sophomores in 2018. E.J. Montgomery, a 6-foot-10 five-star freshman, will also immediately be a factor.

Though he and Washington have fairly similar games, Travis, who can guard multiple positions, is versatile enough to carve out a role while giving Calipari plenty of flexibility with his lineups. Beyond that, his experience can pay dividends on a roster that will be extremely talented, but also extremely youthful.

In addition to Montgomery, UK brought in four more heralded 2018 recruits — five-star point guard Immanuel Quickly, five-star point guard Ashton Hagans, five-star wing Keldon Johnson and four-star shooting guard Tyler Herro. Hagans, formerly a 2019 recruit, reclassified into the 2018 class and was formally announced as a member of the program on Sunday.

Calipari is confident a player of Travis’ caliber will mesh with that young group well.

“I felt good about where we stood with next year’s team, but when I found out how much Reid wanted to be here, I had to take a look and say, ‘OK, can he help us? Can he help our team become even more potent and can we help him reach his dreams?’ The answers were absolutely,” Calipari said.

“You’re talking about a two-time all-conference player who could have very well entered the NBA draft with what he’s done in his career. He was one of the best big men in the Pac-12 last season, if not the country. Our fans know when it comes to talent and experience, I’m always picking talent, but Reid gives us both.”

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