The question, I suppose, was fitting, because Travis Bader seems to like to do things in threes.
“They asked me what three celebrities I’d like to have dinner with,” Bader told Al Beaton, Adam Biggers and me on the latest episode of “The Knee Jerks” podcast last Sunday.
The “they” were a consortium of NBA scouts and coaches. The reason for such a question was the NBA’s version of the NFL combine, particularly the portion where the draft hopefuls are taken away from the court, away from the workouts, and interviewed one-on-one.
So how did Bader answer the celebrity dinner trio question?
“I can’t remember all three,” Bader said. “But I know Bill Gates was one, so I could appear smart.”
Three is Bader’s favorite number. He wore it on his jersey at Oakland University, and he made a college career out of 3, including setting a new all-time NCAA record for triples, breaking the mark set by Duke’s J.J. Redick.
Everyone knows Bader can drain a trey, so there was more to explore about the shooting guard when he had his 11 workouts for 13 NBA teams over the past several weeks.
Hence the oddball questions.
“They also asked me, ‘What does two plus two mean to you?’,” Bader told us on the podcast.
“I said four.”
When we cornered Bader on the phone, the NBA Draft had yet to occur. It was four days away, and at the time there was hope that somehow, some way, Bader would be selected in the two-round, 60-player process.
He wasn’t, but that’s OK.
That’s not the end of his NBA dream.
That he has gotten this far is a testament of sorts.
Bader’s dad was closely tied to the Michigan State University basketball program, and because of that connection, an adolescent Bader got to hang around the Spartans and coach Tom Izzo.
“Coach Izzo was great. He’d let me hang out at practice, shooting for hours,” Bader recalled. “I traveled with the team. I went to Sweet Sixteens and Final Fours.”
But despite Bader’s up close-and-personal relationship with the Spartans program, there was no real interest by Izzo from a recruitment standpoint. And Bader doesn’t blame the coach one iota.
“Whenever people suggest that Coach Izzo let me ‘get away,’ I always laugh,” Bader said. “I wasn’t very impressive coming out of high school. I was six-foot-two, 165 pounds.”
But one coach did see something in Bader.
Greg Kampe has won over 500 games, all at Oakland. He has built a program that flies under the radar but which has been very competitive over the past decade especially. And Kampe went after Bader, the skinny shooting guard from Okemos.
“Coach Kampe has been amazing to me,” Bader said. “He was the only one to offer me a Divison-I scholarship. He saw something in me that nobody else did. He’s very honest. When he says something, he means it.”
After Kampe recruited him, Bader grew a tad (he’s six-foot-five now), filled out some, and became perhaps the best player in Golden Grizzlies history, though Keith Benson, who has played in the NBA, is also in the conversation.
As Bader grinded his way through college, the three-pointers started raining down.
They kept coming to the tune of 504 in 1,246 attempts, which is not only an NCAA career mark for triples made, but Bader did so by making them at a 40 percent clip, which is another impressive stat.
The obvious question we had for Bader on “The Knee Jerks” was, “Was there any team that impressed you the most during the workout process?”
His answer was diplomatic but understandable.
“You know what? Not really. Every team treats you well. They put you up in nice hotels, give you a food stipend. I just want to be drafted.
“I’ll be a practice player, if that’s what teams want,” he added.
OK, so the guy can shoot, but what else does he bring to the table? I wanted to know why an NBA team should take a flyer on Travis Bader, according to Travis Bader.
“Well I’m a team player. I believe in the team. It’s not about me. My work ethic. But the idea is to put the ball in the hole. And that’s my real strength.”
The NBA game today is played so close to the three-point line, and so often. The most prolific three-point shooters aren’t just little guys. Big men are stepping behind the line with dizzying frequency. Whether you choose to call it The Dirk Nowitzki Effect or not, the fact is that being proficient as a long-range shooter is a very important weapon to have, no matter if you’re six-foot-two or nearly seven-feet tall.
But Bader knows that he can’t make the NBA on outside shooting alone.
“I’ve been working hard on my defense,” he told us on Sunday. “I want to show teams that I can defend multiple players and positions.”
But let’s face it. Bader’s real appeal is that three-point gun he carries in his holster.
So the NBA dream lives on, despite Bader going undrafted on Thursday night.
Just today, it was announced that Bader will play for Philadelphia and Golden State in two separate summer leagues next month.
“Travis thought it was the best-case scenario for each league,” coach Kampe told the Oakland Press. “He felt like each team was the best fit for each camp.”
After the draft, Bader texted me and said that six NBA teams were showing high interest in him and had already reached out to his agent.
Is one of them the Pistons, who are in dire need of outside shooting?
Not sure, but Bader listed the Pistons as one of his best workouts.
“To be honest, I’ve been thinking about the NBA since my sophomore year (at Oakland),” Bader told us.
Bader, who literally wore 3 on his chest at Oakland, could still find his way onto an NBA roster.
“The NBA is full of great, great players and specialists. He’s a specialist. Everybody needs a shooter,” Kampe said.