To say that Penn State basketball coach Patrick Chambers sings high praises about sophomore forward Ross Travis would be like saying ESPN First Take’s Skip Bayless is a casual fan of Tim Tebow — it’s a massive understatement.
While people have been ranting and raving about Tim Frazier and the insertion of D.J. Newbill in the backcourt, it seems as though Travis’ potential emergence has been overlooked.
“That’s a kid that doesn’t get talked about enough,” Chambers said of Travis. “That kid is one of the most valuable players on the team.”
Regardless, if the 6-foot-6 forward hybrid with guard-like tendencies continues to do what he did against St. Francis on Friday night (10 points, nine rebounds), it’s going to be hard to ignore him.
Travis, who is coming off a 2011 freshman campaign where he averaged 4.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, is taking advantage of a progressive summer in order to take on a larger role in the Nittany Lions’ gameplan.
“The athletic aspect of him [is his best quality]. Sometimes I watch him practice and we watch film of games, and you can see just how he comes out of nowhere to grab a rebound and he’s very active,” Frazier said.
This past summer Travis worked in the gym on a consistent basis to refine his skills and develop into a complete player.
Travis proved last year he was an effective player around the rim that could stain the glass with dirty, gritty points and rebounds.
In an effort to become more multi-dimensional, the true sophomore said he worked on fine-tuning his mid-range to three-point jumper, as well as ball handling.
With these additions, the versatility he brings to the small and power forward positions for the Lions means the prospects for consistent double-double performances.
“That’s my goal. We sat down in [Chambers’] office and I told him. I said, ‘Coach, one of my goals this year is to average a double-double every game’,” Travis said. “I definitely think I’m capable of that.”
What is known about Travis is his ability to rebound the basketball, but what is still uncertain his ability to nail outside jumpers, despite the work in the offseason.
So far, his conversion from behind the arc has been less than encouraging (0-6 against Philadelphia and St. Francis). Putting this aside, Chambers said he’s impressed with what the sophomore has done in practice.
Now it’s just a matter of making shots.
“He’s been shooting the ball really well, and I’m really surprised its not falling for him right now,” the coach said. “… He needs to continue to play with great confidence regardless of the shots falling or not cause he’s going to play a lot of minutes.”
While he may not play close to 40 minutes like Frazier, Travis is expected to take on more playing time and responsibility this year, making him grow up quickly for a young player.
One aspect of the sophomore’s game that needed work was staying disciplined and staying out of foul trouble.
Travis, who averaged 17.9 minutes per game in 2011, had some playing time cut short last year because of early fouls.
Despite this, Travis said due to heightened maturity he can be relied upon to not get into foul issues, which starts with being in the right position.
The sophomore now feels more comfortable after a year to develop on the defensive end instead of being out of position on defense and having to come back to plays.
“On defense I’ve definitely tried to watch a lot of film to be in the right position and kind of slow the game down so I’m not catching any fouls from being in spots late,” Travis said.
Whether it’s his enhanced jumper or better positioning on defense, Travis has clearly grown as an overall player in the past three to four months.
However, Travis hasn’t lost that grit and toughness that has become his trademark.
“He plays so hard and he’s a winner, I really believe those two, then you can add everything else,” Chambers said. “… He’s a freakish athlete so he’s going to have a special career when this is all said and done.”