Travis Bader stood next to his teammates in the minuscule, makeshift press conference room in the Rose Hill Gymnasium after winning The Basketball Tournament on Sunday. He was silent during the interview session, but don’t let that fool you.
After playing in an NBA Summer League game in Orlando, FL, in the morning, he picked up his belongings and travelled to play in The Basketball Tournament in Atlanta, GA, on the same day. He made it to the first game with 45 minutes to spare, and was immediately thrown into the action.
Without Bader on Overseas Elite, his team wouldn’t have been able to compete. Say goodbye to winning $1 million.
His agent said he was the “hardest sell,” but after the team had almost a complete roster, his agent spoke with him again, and Bader agreed to compete.
“Honestly, it was kinda just surreal. I never really heard of this tournament last year, so when [my agent] hit me up about it, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Bader said. “I thought it was just a lot of teams competing for money, a lot of high-quality competitive teams, so I came in there with no expectations.”
“I told everybody when [my agent] picked me up, I still didn’t know if I was going to be playing,” Bader said. “He picks me up and he kinda lets me know, ‘You’re gonna have to play a little bit.’ I was thinking I’ll play 5 minutes, and shake off this jet lag. And he took me, and said, ‘You’re our fifth guy, you’re going to have to play every minute of the game.’ So, it was kind of funny, I didn’t mind.”
Playing for ASVEL Basket in France last season was a similar experience for him. Bader was thrown into the action, and still he didn’t mind. Taurean Green, a former star for Florida in the mid-2000s, and David Lighty, who won an NIT championship with Ohio State in 2008, were a few of the Americans on the team that helped him out. Bader came away with an excellent experience, as he was able to compete with one of the best teams in Europe.
Laughing, he admitted, “I missed Chipotle, a lot.”
He spent last year in the eastern section of France, but his adolescent years were in Okemos, MI—population 21,369, suburb of Lansing, and home to small time vibes and the 2012 Class A state champions in high school girls’ soccer.
Bader was named the Lansing State Journal Player of the Year in his senior year of high school, but only received one offer from a DI school. That offer came from Oakland University in Rochester, MI, a little over an hour from his hometown.
Bader seized the opportunity, and started his career with Oakland in 2010.
Education was equally important in his college career as athletics. As a full-time athlete at Oakland, he put his all into the academic arena, receiving his Bachelors and Masters in Communications in a mere five years. He was named academic all-league honoree four times.
“As a freshman we would workout every morning, except Sundays and some Saturdays, with our GA (Graduate Assistant) James Hellakjaer,” said Drew Valentine, who was Bader’s roommate and teammate for four years in college and is now a coach for Oakland. “He was such a great shooter, and I wasn’t right away, that the fact that he could already shoot so well motivated me to just be able to keep up with him.”
His unparalleled work ethic propelled him to finish his career at Oakland as a two time All-American, and the all-time leader in made three-pointers in NCAA history.
Graduating in 2014, he went undrafted in that year’s NBA Draft. Despite that, he played in the NBA Summer League, and then opted to play professionally in France. He is currently on the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the affiliate of the Houston Rockets.
Last summer, he starred for the Philadelphia 76ers in the Orlando Summer League, where he scored 9.4 points per game. In Vegas Summer League, he notched 2.33 points per game with the Warriors. While he didn’t play much in Vegas, Bader learned from Steve Kerr about shooting and other facets of basketball. Before signing with the Vipers this summer, he played with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Orlando Summer League.
While Bader is grateful to consider himself a professional basketball player because of his background and hometown, he said, “I definitely believe that I can play in the NBA. I think I have the skill set that not everybody has, to knock down shots.”
“Now with me moving into the coaching side of the business, I’ve had the opportunity to push him and help him get better at his skills,” Valentine said. “I think if he continues to hit the weight room hard, he’ll keep developing into a good defender—like JJ Redick has become. I think there is a spot for him in the League. He’s got size, smarts, work ethic and abilities that few others have.”
“Travis is one the most hardworking, selfless guys you will ever meet,” says his agent. “Always has a smile on his face and goes with the flow. On this team (Overseas Elite) full of personalities and accomplished players, Travis was the easiest of the bunch. It’s all about winning with him, and he has absolutely no ego.”
Bader is ready for the NBA. Waiting for the call, just like the one he got to play in The Basketball Tournament. That came to fruition, and he’s waiting for the next. It continues in Hidalgo, TX, with the Vipers.