SB Nation Pittsburgh is profiling the Penn State basketball team's major contributors from last season, highlighting positives they can build upon and negatives they can work to improve this summer as they prepare for the 2012-2013 season. Today's subject: Ross Travis.
There weren't a whole lot of positives in Penn State's 85-47 drubbing at the hands of eventual national champion Kentucky last Nov. 19. The Nittany Lions were dominated in almost every facet of the game and were pretty clearly outclassed.
Then-freshman forward Ross Travis didn't let that get to him, though. In just his fourth collegiate game, playing against some of the stiffest competition imaginable in Wildcats big men Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones, soon-to-be NBA Draft lottery picks, Travis put up a solid 10-point, eight-rebound performance.
His 2011-2012 season had a lot of ups and downs from there. Some nights, he'd emit the flashes of brilliance he showed against Kentucky. Other times, he'd struggle to get in that same rhythm, limiting his contributions.
His showing against the Wildcats, though, remained an eye-raiser and a signal that Travis has the potential to become a staple in Penn State's front court for years to come.
What He Did Well
-Coach Pat Chambers threw the "junkyard dog" label around for several guys on the team last season, but it was probably used most appropriately in reference to Travis. He regularly sacrificed his body, diving after loose balls and hurling himself into the stands to save a ball to his teammates. He might not have the most polished skill set right now, but if he combines this kind of hustle and attitude with improvement on the finer points, he's going to be dangerous as an upperclassman.
-When he was at his best, Travis looked a lot like former Penn State forward Jeff Brooks. Whether it was jumping sky-high to pull down a board or soaring over opponents to throw down a tomahawk dunk, Travis repeatedly showed he boasts by far the best combination of size and athleticism on the team, much as Brooks did. His success, like Brooks', will be limited only by how quickly he can figure out how best to use that combination and emerge as a threat to attack the basket with authority from any point on the court.
-Though he fell short of Tim Frazier for the team lead in boards per game, Travis did establish himself as the front court's premiere rebounder. Continued consistency in this area will be key in 2012-2013 following Billy Oliver's retirement last winter and Penn State's relatively thin complement at forwards returning to the roster.
What He Can Improve
-Travis' jump shot was fairly well-regarded coming out of high school, but he couldn't consistently hit with it his freshman year. If he's going to grow into the type of offensive threat Brooks was his senior year, Travis is going to have to show defenses he's a threat from mid-to-deep range. The jumper doesn't have to be his biggest strength, but if he can keep defenses honest with it, things will open up more on the inside, where Travis can really do some damage.
-While the double-digit scoring performances were great, Travis followed them up with totals of four points or fewer three times last season, which isn't great. He has to be more consistent this year if Penn State is going to contend for the postseason. That doesn't mean he has to flirt with a double-double every night, but he should be giving the offense some kind of boost regularly rather than sporadically.
-Travis shot an ugly 24-of-50 (48 percent) from the foul line last season. That's an awful lot of points to leave on the floor. The simplest way to ensure he becomes a bigger factor would be to work to hit the freebies most consistently.
-Though he's 6-foot-8, Travis playing at just 215 pounds last season. A little bulking up over the summer would probably help him considerably over the course of the Big Ten grind.