By Tom Ballato
Travis Bader always dreamed of playing Division 1 basketball, but only received one Division 1 scholarship. He arrived at Oakland University and redshirted his freshman year. When asked about the reason behind redshirting, Bader replied, “Coach Kampe and myself already had an understanding that I was going to redshirt my first year. To me, I wanted to play division I basketball and I always believed I could, but I didn’t have the body for it. I was a late grower and was about 6’3″ 175 pounds when I arrived my freshman year. I ended up growing 2 inches and gaining 15 pounds in college. I always thought about going to a prep school or junior college to mature and also because I didn’t have any division I offers until Oakland in the spring of my senior year. The redshirt year was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me. I constantly worked on my body while also allowing myself to practice against the starters for a full year. That year I learned what it would take to be successful. I was a hard worker in high school, but that year definitely taught me how much harder there was to work and thats something I never forgot.”
Bader worked on a lot that year that redshirt season. His goal was to gain muscle, but also to adjust to the speed and strength of the game. For Travis it was a maturation and learning process also. “As a shooter I had to learn how to get my shots off quicker and doing a better job of hunting my shots. In high school you can find your shots easily, but with faster and smarter players at the college level it becomes about knowing your teammates tendencies and studying the scouting report.” He also spent a lot of time watching film on shooters like Erik Kangas (who played at Oakland before Bader), Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, J.J. Redick, and Richard Hamilton. He learned how to use screens and angle, worked on ball handing and defense.
“No matter how well you can shoot, you aren’t going to get any playing time if you can’t defend.”
During his time at Oakland, Travis became a 2,000 point scorer finishing with 2,351 career points. He averaged his 17.16 points per game and 3.68 three pointers made per game at Oakland. Travis knew what it took to get him to the next level and became a student of the game. He emphasized, “As the years went on and teams scouted me and found out how I get my shots, it became about adjusting, studying more film, and working harder to develop more off the dribble. In the pro’s it’s about being elite at some facet of the game. But if you can’t put the ball on the floor a little bit or do anything but shoot you won’t find much success. Even the best shooters are able to blow by a defender when they close out too strong, or shot fake and get to the rim, or even find themselves opportunities to get to the free throw line.”
Bader set college basketball’s Division 1 all-time three point record (504) while he played at Oakland University from 2009-2014. His feat was recently broken by Wofford’s Fletcher Magee who made 509 three pointers, but Bader remains in good company sitting at number two on the all-time list ahead of Duke standout J.J. Redick.
Besides becoming a threat from behind the arch, Bader felt like he improved in other parts of his game while at Oakland. His knowledge and understanding of the game and defense improved and have continued to improve even as he plays professionally today. Travis understands how important it is to defend and adjust as opponents try to take away parts of this game that he does well.
Although Bader was a standout at Oakland, he went undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft. He signed that summer to play Summer League that year for the Philadelphia 76ers and Golden State Warriors. Travis did not make either of the teams, but gained a lot of experience. When asked if he received any advise from coaches or scouts, he said, “(The) Advice I received mainly consisted of continuing to put in the work. A lot of people can get complacent when they get to the pro’s. Ultimately I have found its about being a professional on and off the court. Having a routine in the off-season and season where you will continue to grow each and everyday. Every team I have watched veterans show me what it truly means to be a professional and it is just about a consistent work ethic.”
Bader began his professional career in France with Asvel, a team owned by Tony Parker. He played in the NBA D-League with Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Neptunas in Lithuania, Recanati in Italy, and Gymnastikos Larissa in Greece. Travis also had another stint in the NBA Summer League in 2015 with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Playing professionally overseas has given Travis a chance to see the world. I asked him what country did he enjoy playing in the most and he responded, “One of my favorites would have to be Neptunas in Lithuania. It was a nice city, but the guys on the team were awesome and we all had a great connection. Some of the Americans included Dan Ewing (Duke), Jerai Grant (Clemson), Angus Brandt (Oregon State & Australian national team), and Trent Plaisted (BYU). We made it to the finals that year against Euroleague team Zalgiris. In terms of country I would say Italy because I love the food and culture. It was a beautiful place to live.”
The past couple of years, Travis has played in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) with Overseas Elite. Overseas Elite are a team comprised of top players who play all over the globe, who have come together to win the last four TBT championships and claim the tournament’s prize money. Travis said, “I loved being a part of the team. Seeing guys who are successful in Europe on a day to day basis taught me about the work ethic and mindset that goes into the game. It was a good camaraderie of guys and I value the experience.” In 2015 after his final summer league game with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Bader flew from Orlando to Atlanta to play in a game for Overseas Elite. He arrived just in time to play in their first round game, where the team played with five guys, Bader being their fifth guy.
On February 4, 2019, Travis signed with the Austin Spurs who are the San Antonio Spurs G-League affiliate. He had interest from several teams overseas, but he wanted to play in the G-League again.”I heard the Austin Spurs was a great organization to be a part of and I knew some people here. I am really enjoying myself here in Austin and it has a lot to do with the people and professionalism.” Travis had a great experience with the Austin Spurs. In the 17 games he played in this season, he had averaged 9.4 points per game in just under 25 minutes a game.
The Austin Spurs season concluded without the team making the playoffs. After the conclusion of the G-League season, Travis signed with the Rethymno Cretan Kings in the Greek A1 League. It remains to be scene when Travis returns stateside again, but at 27 years old Bader is still keeping the NBA dream alive, while building his resume in Europe.