Shootout Feature: DeLaSalle Learning To Play With Or Without Reid Travis
Editor’s Note: The 18th annual Timberwolves Shootout will take place Jan. 4 at Target Center. Eight of top teams in Minnesota and around the region will square off in what is likely to be another memorable day of high school basketball. Leading up to the Shootout, look for features on some of the teams participating. Today's feature highlight's DeLaSalle, a team looking to win their third straight Minnesota Class AAA title this spring.
Reid Travis stood under the hoop as his teammates warmed up before facing Osseo on Dec. 14.
The senior standout—ESPN’s 23rd-ranked basketball player in the high school class of 2014 and a recent Stanford-signee—was sidelined with a nagging stress fracture in his foot that has irritated him since the summer, and Travis smiled and passed balls to his teammates as they prepared for the Orioles. Osseo was led by two players who are Division I-bound in Ian Theisen (South Dakota State) and Wheeler Baker (Albany), and many consider them to be a solid threat to the historically powerful Apple Valley Eagles in the Class AAAA playoffs.
But, true to DeLaSalle form, the Islanders came out and handled business that day—even with Travis on the bench as an honorary coach. Despite giving 18 points to Theisen, the defense held Baker to seven points and gave him frustration throughout the game. DeLaSalle went on to win, 63-55.
DeLaSalle pressured the ball, rotated fluidly and pushed in transition. Each player was extensively prepared to execute his role. The team played with the same discipline that has been the centerpiece of back-to-back state titles in 2012 and 2013.
“I’m really confident in the kids that I have,” coach Dave Thorson said. “Obviously we’re a different team if Reid plays, but we’re a good team regardless. We’re not fooling anyone; we’re going to play pressure man-to-man, and we’re going to front. We do all the same things that we do.”
That’s the type of mentality DeLaSalle will bring into its matchup with St. Rita (Ill.) on Jan. 4 at the Timberwolves Shootout. The two teams will tip off at 12:45 p.m., the third of four matchups during the event. With or without Travis, the Islanders expect to play their game and contend with anyone they face. Right now, there is no timetable for his return.
The win over Osseo was very important for DeLaSalle. A loss to Apple Valley the weekend prior was still stinging, as the Islanders shot just 32 percent and turned the ball over 21 times in the most anticipated Minnesota high school basketball matchup in years... maybe even decades.
And yes, Apple Valley is immensely talented and sports an enrollment that dwarfs DeLaSalle’s. Yes, Travis’ absence left an undeniable gap on the court. But for all the excuses the Islanders could make, Thorson is making zero.
“I was terribly disappointed,” Thorson said of the Apple Valley loss. “The only people that are really going to understand that are the 15 guys in our locker room and our coaches. I don’t expect anyone else to understand that. And that’s not taking anything away from Apple Valley or Osseo or anyone else; we’re on our own, separate quest.”
The Osseo win on the following weekend was important because it proved that DeLaSalle has the pieces to defeat a very good program without Travis. Junior Jeffery Daubanton fills Travis’ spot in the starting lineup, and 6-foot-4 defensive stopper James Lawson can defend in the post as well. Sacar Anim is a lanky wing player whose game is maturing, and Jarvis Johnson and Geno Crandall alternate in bringing the ball upcourt. Each player can run, jump and defend in various spots, keeping constant pressure on their opponent.
“I think our gameplan stays the same,” Travis said. “Whether I’m in or Jeffrey’s in, it doesn’t really matter. We still play the same way, and it works out. Everyone should be able to do everything. That’s kind of the motto.”
Johnson—an athletic junior with scholarship offers from Minnesota, Marquette and UCLA, among others—sees Travis’ absence as a chance for other players to improve their game.
“Without Reid, it opens the game up,” Johnson said. “It allows me and Geno to attack more, which is perfect for us. We try to get a pick-and-pop going with Jeffrey. We get James Lawson in the middle where Reid would play, and then we just switch that off.”
Crandall has signed with North Dakota and Lawson has signed with Sioux Falls. Do you see the trend here? Thorson teaches young men how to be a part of a well-oiled machine, and colleges take notice. College coaches love kids who are selfless and who know how to play without turning the ball over.
Even Travis, the aggressive forward with a flair for two-handed slams under the rim, knows his role. Right now, it’s sitting on the bench next to Thorson and rehabilitating his foot.
“Reid’s a very cerebral player; he understands,” Thorson said. “The chemistry we have here at DeLaSalle, the program is bigger than any one player. The program is bigger than any one coach. He understands that, that’s why we’ve been so successful for 114 years.”
If this program can defeat a Class AAAA contender like Osseo and nip at Apple Valley’s heels all game without Travis, imagine how good they’ll be when the big man comes back.
Go ahead, watch the precision and mental toughness that DeLaSalle plays with on Jan. 4 at the Timberwolves Shootout. As of now, they’re still on the path to finishing their year on that same court, fighting for a third straight state championship, with or without Travis.
They just have to keep playing DeLaSalle basketball.
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