Travis, Hagans lead competitive charge for Cats


Graduate student forward Reid Travis walks on the court during the game against Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by McKenna Horsley | Staff

When it comes to college basketball’s star freshmen, a common criticism of their games is their effort level. It happened with 2018 No. 1 NBA draft pick DeAndre Ayton, and with former Cat Kevin Knox and his teammate, Hamidou Diallo.

The common analysis is that since players like this were All-Stars in their high school and AAU leagues, while having their basketball future “handed to them,” they wouldn’t put in effort until the game’s biggest stages.

This year’s UK team is ensuring that critique won’t become a possibility.

“I think that’s something special about this team,” graduate transfer forward Reid Travis said after a 64-86 exhibition victory over IUP Friday night. “The energy and the competitive nature is something that a lot of guys have instilled in them. They always bring it like that, so we never have to preach effort or competitive spirit.”

The main struggles this Wildcat team is having are the techniques involved with moving on defense, talking and moving off the ball on offense. However, competitiveness and fight aren’t on the list.

That analysis doesn’t just come within the team, either. IUP coach Joe Lombardi said that Travis in particular had that power and spirit about him.

“[Travis’] competitiveness I think is going to help the younger guys understand how you have to show up every night and play,” Lombardi said.

The First Team All-PAC 12 player has already made waves for the young players, including freshman Tyler Herro. The sharpshooter said that it’s “good to have [Travis] on the team… how he talks and communicates with us.”

Travis isn’t the only spark plug on the team, either. Freshman guard Ashton Hagans had an on-ball steal late in the game that sparked both a personal and technical foul on IUP guard Malik Miller, which energized the team to finish the game on a brief 7-2 run. During that run, Hagans brought the ball up the floor quickly and passed the ball to an open Herro before yelling at him to shoot it. Herro’s made three put the Cats up by 24.

“He always tells me to shoot it whenever I catch it,” Herro said.

Head coach John Calipari is giddy about the team’s spirit, as he’s been saying since Media Day that the team only needs to work on technique and basketball, and that he’s never had to coach effort with this unit.

They’ll see if their competitive spirit is enough to go up against No. 4 Duke on Tuesday.