LEXINGTON — Reid Travis and PJ Washington were reunited on Thursday.
The two former University of Kentucky upperclassmen took part in John Calipari’s Draft Academy Camp at the Joe Craft Center and shared a laugh or two with their former coach as youngsters looked on while participating in warm-up exercises.
“It’s great to be out here seeing all these kids enjoying me and the younger (UK) guys as well,” he said. “It’s been great seeing guys like Reid, Keldon (Johnson) and Tyler (Herro) and everybody coming back and having fun. He (Calipari) is definitely like a mentor now. Last year he was coaching us. Now, he’s asking us questions about how our organizations are and stuff like that.”
Like Washington, Travis was glad to be back in familiar territory.
“It feels really good to be back, just seeing some of the guys and you can just feel the energy of the brotherhood. .. I just got here (Thursday) morning but had a big smile on my face as soon as I landed," Travis said.
Later, Washington and Travis mingled with camp attendees and were active in drills. Former freshman standouts Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson attended the afternoon session. Washington didn’t compete in the NBA Summer League, but has already fell in love with the Charlotte area and is looking forward to fall camp.
“I feel like in due time, everything will pay off. I’m just excited and ready to get things rolling,” he said.
For Travis, his path to the NBA will require a different route. Travis has signed a one-year contract to play professionally in Germany and one of his teammates will be former UCLA guard Bryce Alford. Both will be part of a team based in Bayreuth Germany and Travis hopes the road will eventually lead back to the NBA. He added that his next coach sold him on what he hopes is a short stay overseas.
“I picked a great spot,” he said. “Obviously my ultimate goal was to play in the NBA this year. After having great talks with coaches here like Cal and (Kenny Payne), reassuring me that those goals are still within reach. It’s not a bad thing to go over there for a year to work on some things, come back and really be able to show what I can do. I understand my path is different, but I’m excited for it. I think it’s a great opportunity. It’s a great club and that’s ultimately the reason why I picked them.”
Travis looked as his next basketball destination as a “another step” in his “journey” that saw him shift time zones and adjust to new surroundings in a matter of 12 months.
“I feel like I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, but just having to go overseas for a year, I feel like it will be nice for me in many aspects,” he said. “I look at it two ways: I can be bitter and sulk and not enjoy the experience, but for me, it’s a great life experience to go over there, see a new culture and a different country, get to play basketball at a high level and get paid to do it. There’s a lot of good things going my way.”
When he came to Kentucky a year ago, Travis said there were no guarantees he would get a sure shot at the next level and doesn’t have any regrets attending college for a fifth season.
“I wouldn’t say I put much pressure on it as far as coming here to be able to play in the NBA, obviously everyone’s situation is different. Kentucky is not just going to mold you in so you can be an NBA player because you have Kentucky across your chest,” he said. “Obviously my situation is different than the younger guys. I understand it and I’m fine with that.”
For Travis, the decision top play at Kentucky served a purpose and he ultimately achieved his goal.
"For me, it was just getting better as a basketball player and getting better as a person and I feel like I did those things,” he said. “It wasn’t that I wanted to come here and become an NBA player. … I feel like I grew and really became a better player and a better man. All the things I wanted to happen and that’s a success to me.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.