Travis Bader had aspirations of playing for a Division I team ever since he was a kid.
“I visited schools like Central (Michigan) and Detroit, but they always talked about being a walk-on, and I didn’t want to be a walk-on,” Bader said.
Head coach Greg Kampe offered him a scholarship, and the rest is history.
“He’s the consummate player that you would like for Oakland to be,” Kampe said. “He represents a great student, he represents the university and he does a lot of community service. Everybody knows who he is. He’s a good kid.”
While other schools were interested in him as a walk on, Bader joined Oakland and became one of the best shooters in the nation. As of Feb. 6, Bader is first in the NCAA in three-point field goals per game with 4.30. He is fifth in the country in points per game with 21.7, which is also good for first in the Summit League.
Bader, the 6-foot-5 guard from Okemos, Mich., grew up around basketball. He began playing the sport when he was seven years old, shooting around in his basement in a children’s basketball hoop his parents got him.
Bader’s father worked for the Michigan State University basketball team. Bader visited their practices every day after school to watch them play and to shoot around with his father.
“I was always watching guys like Charlie Bell from Michigan State,” Bader said. “Drew Neitzel, was one of my favorite players, and I’m good friends with him. I still keep in touch with him. I looked up to those guys.”
Aside from basketball, Bader also played soccer and golf. He was involved with soccer for a year in high school before deciding to focus solely on basketball.
“I wanted to play tennis,” Bader said. “My sister is a big-time tennis player. She played tennis at Michigan State. I kind of look back and wish I played tennis a little bit.”
Bader has two older sisters, Christine and Kim. Christine is the head coach for women’s tennis at Ball State University.
Bader, a redshirt junior, earned his communication degree in three years. He was interested in a coaching career at first, but began thinking about broadcasting instead. He is now pursuing his master’s degree and manages to find time for a healthy balance of work and play.
His mother’s advice was to make sure he set aside time every day for academics, basketball and a social life.
“It’s just about having a good routine,” Bader said. “Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve gone to the library two hours a day. I kept a calendar going, when I’m going to go study and when I’m going to do work. I just have to stay on top of things.”
On the court, Bader is just as focused. His confidence and abilities have made him one of the best players in college basketball.
Bader treats every game the same. Before he goes out on the court, he puts his headphones on, and listens to artists such as Drake and Wale to get him pumped up.
“There’s definitely a certain time when I stop, collect myself and get ready for the game,” Bader said. “Whether that’s putting on my headphones and zoning out, or I’ll come into the gym and get shots up before anybody else is even out there. An hour and a half before the game, I just need to narrow in and lock in.”
Once his feet touch the court, Bader said he only thinks about the game at hand. Kampe believes Bader does a good job of keeping his memory blank, which is important after missing a shot or two.
“I don’t think people can get to him,” Kampe said. “All of the different things that opponents try to do to him, to throw him off his game, get physical with him, knock him down, talk crap to him when he’s playing, things like that. I think he’s really good at blocking stuff out.”
Bader recently earned the Summit League Player of the Week. He was also named by ESPN’s Dick Vitale as the National Player of the Week. His performance against IUPUI (47 points, 11 three-pointers) was nominated as the Capital One Cup Impact Performance of the Week on ESPN’s website.
Despite his individual success, Bader knows that basketball is a team sport.
“Like Kampe says, it’s not about individual awards,” Bader said. “After games, the game is over. There’s a new game coming up, so I prepare myself the same way. I get in the gym early, and I practice hard.”
Contact Sports Editor Lindsay Beaver via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @lindsaybeavs