East Rutherford, N.J.—Drafted directly out of high school in 2003, forward Travis Outlaw traveled from Starkville, Miss. to Portland, Ore. and began a seven-year NBA career that included a pit stop with the Clippers last season before he joined the Nets as a free agent on July 8.
We recently sat down with “Mr. Fourth Quarter” for a wide-ranging interview about the transition to the pros, how to handle those buzzer-beating moments, road trips and Super Bowl wins (... on Madden). It's time to Experience New Nets!
NJNets.com: You were one of the last players to jump directly from high school to the pros. When did you start to think that was possible?
Travis Outlaw: My senior year. I was ranked pretty high in the nation, and there was talk like, ‘You probably could go.’ It took a lot of encouragement from my parents, too.
NJNets.com: What were some elements of your transition from high school to the pros?
Outlaw: I had to mature a lot faster than if I had gone to college. Once I got to the league, I learned it’s a job now. In high school, you’re used to playing for fun, and it’s not as serious. But once you get here, it’s so much more detailed in things you do and do not do.
NJNets.com: Was it a difficult adjustment going from small-town Mississippi to Portland?
Outlaw: You know, it was, but it helped me a lot more than coming straight to New Jersey; it’s so fast up here. Portland was kind of slowed down. It’s faster than Mississippi, but it wasn’t too fast.
Outlaw: I didn’t do much, ha. But I did whatever (the team) wanted me to do in the community.
NJNets.com: When did you start to feel you belonged in the NBA?
Outlaw: I’d say my fourth year. I started gradually getting confidence within my game. At first, it was kind of iffy to me. My first two years, I didn’t really grasp what they were trying to saying to me. It took some special coaches to sit down and talk to me about it: ‘There are good moves, but you need to be a little more patient – you’ve got to be poised with your game.’ Straight out of high school, it’s kind of like, ‘All right, I’ve gotta go!’ But then you learn time, score and situation. There’s a time for everything.
Outlaw: (Laughs.) It was a blessing to have that name, don’t get me wrong. But, as I’ve played the game, I’ve felt you’ve been in the game long enough, you’ll get comfortable in the fourth just as well as in the first. If you play long enough, you’ll get confidence whenever you play.
NJNets.com: What’s the trick to being able to shoot those with confidence?
Outlaw: When I take them, I learned to really over-exaggerate my shot – don’t come out of it early when you shoot it. Usually in the fourth, everybody’s winded; your legs aren’t feeling as fresh as they were in the first. You’ve just got to really go through your form. That’s what you on, just repetition and making sure that your shot’s the same, that you have a consistent shot all game.
NJNets.com: Your jump shot improved dramatically over your first few seasons. Who helped you out the most?
Outlaw: First of all I have to give a lot to God, because he helped me through it all, but I had some wonderful folks that helped me come through – from
to Monty Williams to
– who took time out of their day to help me work on my shot.
NJNets.com: Which shooters did you admire growing up?
Outlaw: As a shooter, I always loved how Ray Allen shot the ball. And
). Every shot for them was the same. Their form might be different, but it was always the exact same shot.
NJNets.com: I read that Travis Outlaw Day drew more than 1,500 people in Starkville this year – isn’t that the whole town?
Outlaw: Yeah! (Laughs.) It’s close. It’s very close. It’s nice. I always want to give back to the community. Through my childhood, it did so much for me. That’s just a little of what I can do for them. It’s with the Boys and Girls club. It’s just a fun day in the park. Everybody comes out and enjoys themselves.
NJNets.com: What’s the trick to winning that BBQ contest?
Outlaw: You’ve got to vibe the grill, ha. You’ve got to know what you’re doing. I’ve got a lot of friends that come over to the house and barbecue. I like the eat-in type of barbecue.
Outlaw: My cousin Derrick did that. He was messing around like, ‘Trav, I want to do a YouTube video.’ I was like, ‘Sure, man. Go on and go at it.’ So it turned out, I looked at it and said, ‘Man, you’re pretty good at it!’ He said, ‘I was just trying to do a little something something.’ That’s much credit to my cousin. I guess he was bored.
NJNets.com: How important are keeping those family ties?
Outlaw: It’s very important. I’m a guy who’s really strongly into family. They help you through a lot. You’re not going to have a good day every day, so I look to my family for pickup.
Outlaw: (Shakes head.) Aw, man. That was just too long. It was fun though, because we drove through the mountains and that was scary. It didn’t have no rails or nothing. Man, if you fall asleep it’s OVER.
NJNets.com: Crazy. What made you do it?
Outlaw: It was my brother’s idea. I had to go back to Portland and pack up. After the season was over, I didn’t have no rush to go anywhere. He was like, ‘Let’s drive up to Portland.’ I was like, ‘Ahhh…’ At first, I was skeptical. I said, ‘That’s a 15-hour drive, bro – that’s not something you just do!’ But my cousin was with me, so we just said, ‘Forget it,’ packed up and it was, ‘Let’s go.’
Outlaw: Yeah, ha. I simulated the whole thing, got to the Super Bowl, and I (played and) won it. They had Obama on the game and everything. I said, ‘These video games are really taking off with it.’
NJNets.com: What team do you play with?
Outlaw: I play with the Vikings. That’s my favorite team.
NJNets.com: Wait. The Vikings?! Aren’t you from Mississippi?
Outlaw: I have a couple friends who’re like, ‘How are you not a Saints fan?!’ I remember when Warren Moon was playing there, and then on to Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss. I just fell in love with the team.
NJNets.com: Fair enough. Favre gonna do it again?
Outlaw: I’m hoping so. They’re getting back there pretty fast on him now. We lost to the Saints, but it was the first game, so we got time.
NJNets.com: You feeling settled out here yet?
Outlaw: Yeah. I’ve just got to learn these streets. To turn off, you go past your destination and then turn all the way back around. That’s gonna mess me up.
NJNets.com: Learn to love those jughandles. They’re the first thing everyone complains about.
Outlaw: Yeah. And I’ve got to get an EZ Pass, I’ve heard.
NJNets.com: Good advice, ha. They really speed things up.
Outlaw: When I first landed here to sign, I was like, ‘Man – we went through three tolls already!’ But I’m very excited. I feel like it’s a very fresh start here.
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