The kid had one Division I scholarship offer, which he accepted. To Oakland University.
The kid had one season in which he was asked to redshirt, which he accepted, then spent more time in the gym than the starters.
The kid had one golden chance to tie the game versus West Virginia with a 24-footer, which he accepted. Only the shot fell too short.
“It was right on target,” Travis Bader said outside the Oakland locker room. “Just not enough legs.”
Bader burned West Virginia for 25 points, making 6-of-12 from 3-point range, but he characterized the performance unfulfilling because of a long-range miss with 11 seconds remaining and the Grizzlies trailing by three.
“I think everybody in the gym knew it was coming to me on that play,” said Bader, a role model for legions of under-recruited gym rats. “I had a clean look. It was deep, but it felt good right when it left my hands.”
Bader wasn’t just the best shooter on the floor in Wednesday night’s 76-71 loss; he’s been recognized as one of the best shooters in the nation. Quite a career trajectory for the redshirt junior who generated almost zero buzz coming out of Okemos, Mich.
“I looked at places like Central Michigan as a preferred walk-on, but Coach (Greg) Kampe at Oakland was the only Division I coach to offer me,” Bader said. The kid didn’t lean on his father’s connection as Michigan State’s director of basketball operations.
“I’m sure if I would’ve went and talked to Izzo, I could have maybe walked on there. But my whole goal was to play Division I basketball and actually play, instead of sitting on the bench and maybe get some scrub minutes.”
The guy is no scrub. A scrub doesn’t shoot 41 percent from 3-point range over 83 career games. A scrub doesn’t make five or more 3-pointers in 21 games with defenses gearing to stop him. A scrub doesn’t have his coach’s blessing to launch a long 3 with the game on the line and time left to make a few more passes.
“There is no such thing as long for him,” Kampe said. “I have seen him make that shot a million times, so I can’t say anything is too quick or too long for him. He’s going to make that a lot. It was a good look because it wasn’t contested.”
And it was uncontested because of a down screen that … well, let’s allow WVU coach Bob Huggins to elucidate.
“We were going to switch and Gary (Browne) said, ‘Don’t switch, don’t switch — I got him. I got him. I got him.’ Over the years I guess I’ve had a tendency to believe those guys when they’re that convincing,” Huggins said.
“We should have switched. He got too good a look.”
And other Division I programs should have looked more closely at Bader, a 6-foot-5 missile-launcher who averages barely more than one turnover in 38 minutes per game, who gives Oakland a shot to win the Summit League this season, who laughs off opposing fans calling him “mastur-Bader” as the students at Pitt did last month.
With less than 5,000 people at the WVU Coliseum on Wednesday night, Bader didn’t hear much disparagement from the fans. He had earned their respect, just as he had Huggins’. The Mountaineers coach, theorizing about Bader’s rise from obscurity, said the area surrounding Detroit, Flint and East Lansing churns out so many good players that she inevitably get overlooked.
“Kampe,” Huggins said, “does a great job of finding guys that, quite frankly, people miss on.”
And West Virginia, quite frankly, was fortunate Bader missed his last shot Wednesday night.