Archive for Thursday, July 10, 2008

Under the Lights: BSHS gave sneak peek at Releford

July 10, 2008

NCAA Division I basketball talent hasn't graced the courts of the Kaw Valley League very much in recent years.

Sure, there was Leo Lyons at Piper back in 2003-04, who now is a starter for the Missouri Tigers, but beyond that, the instances have been limited.

Thankfully, the Bonner Springs Metro Prep Classic has provided us a glimpse at top-tier talent during the past few years. Numerous future college players - whether at the junior college, NAIA or lower division NCAA levels - have graced the rosters of teams competing in the tournament.

For the past two years, however, the diamond of Kansas University's recruiting treasure chest has been there, too. Fans were able to see for themselves just how special a player Travis Releford is.

Releford was a star at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park. His Stags won back-to-back Metro Prep Classic championships, and Releford garnered a pair of Tournament MVP awards.

Throughout the tournament he proved he could attack the basket off the dribble with either hand, finish with either hand and knock down pull-up jump shots.

He also left no doubt about his ability to dunk when he threw down a reverse jam against Shawnee Heights in the finals of this year's tournament.

He didn't just score, though. He also distributed the ball, which may be the greatest testament to his development as a player at Miege. There never was a doubt that Releford trusted his teammates to make plays, and throughout the Metro Prep Classic he routinely used himself as a decoy to free up open teammates before passing to them for an open shot.

It is Releford's combination as a scorer and team-oriented player that make the 6-foot-5 guard so special.

We got a sneak preview of his talents during the tournament at BSHS, and now the rest of the country is discovering what we already knew.

In addition to being the biggest name in KU's seven-member recruiting class, Releford found out Tuesday that he was one of 12 players selected to the USA Basketball men's U-18 national team. He will try to help the USA win a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship next week in Argentina.

Releford will join a long line of Jayhawks who have represented the United States in international competition, from Danny Manning to Nick Collison. It's a situation where Releford should thrive given his multi-faceted skill set. It also should give Kansas fans an idea of what to expect from Releford this fall because it'll be the first time we've had a chance to look at him when surrounded completely by Division I talent.

Fortunately for Releford, that's where his unselfish playing style should shine through. It's the way he learned to play while at Bishop Miege, and it's what he will have to do to be successful at Kansas.

It's also what we came to expect from him when we watched him blossom into a star while playing at the Metro Prep Classic in Bonner Springs.

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