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Exactly the Same But Totally Different

By:  Michele Brown

There’s nothing quite like the BBN, is there?  In spite of securing the 2 seed in this weekend’s SEC Tournament and being a projected 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, there are quite a few fans who are trying to find clouds for the Cats’ silver lining.  Apparently, because Reid Travis did not return to play in exactly 2 weeks (if you recall, Coach Cal said at the time of Travis’ injury that he would miss “about 2 weeks”),  they’ve determined that we will not see Reid play again for however long this season continues.   Their reasoning?  “This is exactly like Jarred Vanderbilt!”

Exactly the same?  Sure.  Except the 2 situations are totally different.

Vanderbilt arrived at Kentucky in 2017 as a 5-star recruit and projected one-and-done player.   He also came with a pre-existing ankle/foot injury he suffered during the Jordan Brand Classic.  Not long after practice began, Vanderbilt injured the same ankle.   It was determined by medical staff that surgery would be required to fully repair the damage, and Jarred sat the first 3 months of the season missing the first 17 games of the season.

Reid Travis arrived at Kentucky in 2018 as a graduate transfer from Standford who had initially put his name into the hat for the NBA Draft but withdrew prior to the deadline.  He chose to come to Kentucky for his final year of eligibility with modest NBA expectations (he was projected a late 2nd round pick).  Travis appeared in the first 26 games of the season before suffering a “mild” knee sprain causing him to miss the final 5 regular season games.

“But Calipari doesn’t push players to come back from injury, so this is exactly the same!”

This refrain gained momentum throughout the 2017-18 season as the wait for Vanderbilt’s return seemed endless.  Calipari said Jarred had been medically cleared but wasn’t mentally ready and he would leave it up to the player to determine when he was ready to play.   The throng of couch coaches was instantly orthopedic specialists who all “knew” exactly when Vanderbilt should return to play.

When Travis did not make an appearance on Senior Day, once again the angst began and there were more than a few fans who were on social media confidently stating that “Reid will never play another game for Kentucky again.  Cal isn’t pushing him enough!”

So, both players were great rebounders that got injured late in the season.  But is it really exactly the same?

Not by a longshot.  Perhaps I will be proven wrong, but I have full confidence we will see Reid Travis play in the post-season.  The situation with Travis is unlike Vanderbilt’s in several ways:

  • As previously noted, Vanderbilt was injured before he ever got to Kentucky and had to undergo surgery after arriving in Lexington.  The second injury that caused him to miss the post-season ultimately required a second surgery, delaying his debut in the NBA.
  • Vanderbilt had little to gain by coming back early from his injury.  If he got injured again (which he ultimately did), it could do great damage to his draft stock.  His goal of being a high draft pick (if not lottery) was no secret to anyone.
  • Travis came to Kentucky healthy and ready to do the work required to compete in the brutal SEC.  He lowered his body fat, increased his strength and conditioning, and provided the Cats with some much-needed toughness.
  • Travis has little to gain by not returning for the post-season.  He could have stayed in the NBA draft and likely have gotten a modest contract for a team.  But transferring to Kentucky gave him the probability of experiencing something he never got to experience during his career at Stanford:  the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Unlike Vanderbilt when the answer was always “we hope he’ll return”, Calipari announced today that Travis had returned to practice and “should” be available in the SEC Tournament this weekend, though his minutes will likely be limited.

Still not convinced?  Are you part of the contingent that believes both the Vanderbilt and Travis situations are identical because Cal is “too vague” about injuries?

First, it’s really none of our business to know the full extent of any player’s injury.   Ever heard of HIPAA?  Second, look around all of college basketball.  Coaches giving only vague updates regarding players’ injuries are the norm, not the exception.   There is no definite timetable for any player to return regardless of the injury.  Each person recovers and rehabilitates at their own pace and there can be many factors impacting that time.  Third, why would you give an upcoming opponent more information than necessary?  “Travis might play” could lead a team to prepare differently than if you said definitively that he would not be available for the game.  Last, I repeat, it’s really none of our business!

As for me, I expect to see more of Reid Travis as the post-season progresses.  I’d much rather he take it easy in the SEC Tournament and be fully healed for the more important NCAA Tournament run.  And if for some reason Travis doesn’t play this weekend, you can say it’s the same as Vanderbilt.  Except, it’s totally different.

Enjoy the ride!

Follow me on Twitter @ForeverBigBlue


Michele Brown
Michele Brown
Writer at since Feb. 2015 Co-host of Big Blue Views podcast. Mom, Christian, sports junkie, golf addict and speed typist. I can cook your mama's food better than she can.

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