Last Year's Synopsis
A year ago, Ross Travis was one of five incoming freshmen recruited by Ed DeChellis, but stuck with Pat Chambers after the abrupt coaching change. The small forward from Minnesota was one of the more highly-regarded players in the 2011 recruiting class and was especially lauded for his athleticism. As a result, many expected him to see the floor right away. Sure enough, that was the case, albeit it came with expected growing pains, as he struggled to find his role in the offense. By the end of the year of the year, however, things began to click for Ross as he averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds per game over the last five games of the season, culminated by a career-high 15 point performance against Michigan.
Flash forward to today: Ross is one of only two remaining members of the 2011 recruiting class (Pat Ackerman being the other) and he looks to pick up where left off at the end of last season.
Rebounding was Ross' bread and butter last season. As the best rebounder on the team, his individual rebounding percentages (11.0% OReb% and 18.2% DReb%) rivaled the marks put up by Geary Claxton as a senior. If he can continue to improve on those numbers with increased playing time, he'll be one of the top rebounders in the Big Ten.
However, his scoring percentages stick out like sore thumbs, particularly from the foul line where he merely hit 24 of 50 attempts. His shooting outside of 10 feet was not good, to say the least. He will likely continue to be an opportunistic scorer with the firepower in the backcourt, but he needs to prove himself as a threat away from the basket to keep the defense honest.
Ross is arguably the biggest key to PSU's season (along with Jon Graham). The confidence shown by Chambers in his backcourt puts the pressure on the big guys to complement them. Travis has the key role of being the 'fourth guard' in Chambers' 4-out 1-in motion offense, which requires a perimeter skill set to supplement his ability to bang down low and rebound. With the new summer rules that allowed coaches to work with players over the summer, Travis was put through some skill development workouts that particularly focused on the form of his jumper. Early reports from the media practice yesterday seem to hint that the summer paid off.
Travis likely won't blossom into a go-to scorer this season, but he doesn't have to be. His biggest asset could be his potential progress on defense as he will likely be matched up against bigger '4-men' in the Big Ten. If he can effectively guard the four position, it will allow Chambers more freedom with three and four guard sets. Ideally, a more controlled, experienced 'junkyard dog', as Chambers calls him, that can continue making the hustle plays down low will be a great addition to this team.
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