On Sunday as millions of Americans were still dreaming of a competitive Super Bowl, just over 2,000 people turned out to see the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee men’s basketball team host Oakland University. And they saw Oakland guard Travis Bader do something he’s done a lot: score threes. In that game, Bader became the all-time NCAA Division I career leader in three-pointers. Bader joined Bill to discuss his accomplishment.
BL: What went through your mind as number 458 found the bottom of the net? Or was it simply to be expected and nothing went through your mind?
TB: I think when that shot fell it was simply a sense of relief. That record has kind of been weighing me down a little bit — all the talk and attention that I’ve received through it. So when that shot fell it was just a little relief going through my mind.
BL: Oakland University is in Michigan, where you grew up, and it was the only Division I school to offer you a scholarship, but your dad once worked as the director of basketball operations at Michigan State. Is it true that your backup plan was to just try and walk on with the Spartans?
TB: Well I was honestly looking to play Division I anywhere and toward the end of my senior year I didn’t really have any Division I offers. So you know I always had that in the back of my mind that I could go to Michigan State. And I have a great relationship with coach Tom Izzo and pretty much everybody around the athletics department there. But I really just wanted to play and not sit on the bench, and I wanted to earn a scholarship at Division I, and I was thankful enough that Oakland offered me a scholarship.
BL: Travis you got your first start for the Golden Grizzlies in your first game as a freshman, but that wasn’t exactly the plan. Tell us a little about how you landed in the lineup that night.
TB: Two guys who were supposed to start, Reggie Hamilton and Ledrick Eackles, were actually late to the bus for shootaround. They were only about a minute late, but Coach Kampe had a rule: if you were a starter and you were late, you weren’t going to start. So coach Kampe walked back and told Drew Valentine and myself that we were going to get to start. And honestly I started to freak out a little bit — a kid who’d just red-shirted. This is his first career basketball game at West Virginia and all of a sudden he’s being thrown into the starting lineup. So I got a little nervous. Luckily I called my sister and she calmed me down.
BL: So you didn’t go into that game thinking, “Oh boy, the first time I get that ball in my hands I’m throwing it up for a three.”
TB: No, if anything it was probably the opposite. But I think the ball went in to Keith Benson, and I think he got double-teamed or something, and I was standing there wide open. He kicked it out. I checked the wind a little bit in the gym and threw it up there.
BL: All right, you’re already working on your masters degree in communications after finishing your undergraduate degree in the same field in just three years. I guess you and the number three fit together pretty well.
TB: Yeah, that seems to be my number. It’s funny cause people always ask the significance behind the number three, which I wear, and I don’t have an answer for it honestly. But it just seems to work out that everything comes in threes for me.
BL: Oakland made the NCAA tournament in 2010 and again in 2011, but it’s been a tough season this time around. Does that make the record bittersweet for you?
TB: Yeah a little bit. Even with the struggles, it’s nice to see that maybe my performance and our team can still get some exposure and still put the Oakland name out there.
BL: Do you have plans to take your three point shot professional after you are finished with your college career?
TB: Definitely, that’s been my goal since I was a kid: to play Division I basketball and then play in the NBA. So I’m gonna keep working my hardest and if that doesn’t work out I’d love to play professionally overseas. Why settle for a regular job when I can be playing a game for a living?