Oct 28, 2013, 6:00 PM EST
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Travis Bader isn’t a household name, but pretty soon the Oakland senior shooting guard’s accomplishments will be heard across the country as he closes in on J.J. Redick’s career three-point field goal record this season.
The 6-foot-5 redshirt senior from Okemos, Michigan has been knocking down three-pointers at an alarming rate since his freshman season and after knocking in 139 in his junior season, he sits 101 three-pointers short of Redick’s NCAA career record.
While Redick was a highly-recognized sniper at Duke — one of America’s most visible programs — Bader has quietly knocked down three-pointers and expanded his offensive game under Greg Kampe’s rapid run-and-gun offensive approach at Oakland.
The Golden Grizzlies move to the Horizon League in 2013-14 after 15 seasons in the Summit League, but Bader has garnered so much respect among people in the Horizon that he was voted preseason First-Team All-League after averaging 22.1 points per game last season.
Kampe’s offense at Oakland — where he has been head coach since 1984 with a record of 506-366 in DI and DII — is perfect for Bader because they prefer quick and frequent three-pointers early in the shot clock. Bader himself averaged 10.9 three-point attempts a game last season.
“Coming in as a freshman I don’t think anybody ever thought that I would be where I am today,” Bader said. “So that just means I just put in a lot of hard work during my years in Oakland and I’m going to keep putting up shots and trying to be in the gym more than anyone else.”
For Bader to be in position to potentially break Redick’s record, he had to play and succeed early. But that wasn’t necessarily supposed to be the case early in Bader’s college career.
“Nobody really believed in me and that started in high school,” Bader said. “I wasn’t big enough or strong enough, wasn’t quick enough or athletic enough. I’ve just always kind of had that fire burning inside of me just to prove people wrong.”
Oakland was the only Division I program to offer Bader and after a redshirt year in 2009-10, Bader was expected to be a potential role player for the Golden Grizzlies. But after a violation of team rules from some teammates, Bader got an instant chance during the first game of his freshman year.
“Even when I got to Oakland, they knew I was a good player but they didn’t know how much playing time I’d see,” Bader said. “My freshman year a situation happened where a couple of guys were late to the bus and I actually started at West Virginia our first game and just took advantage of the opportunity.”
Bader was 3-for-8 from beyond the arc in the West Virginia game and has been a fixture in Oakland’s rotation since. As a freshman, Bader averaged 10.5 points per game before upping it to 15.9 a game as a sophomore before his breakout junior campaign.
But for as nice as Redick’s record would look on Bader’s resume as he closes out his collegiate career this season, he’s only focused on team success and returning to the NCAA Tournament as a new member of the Horizon League.
“People talk about the three-point record but making the NCAA Tournament would mean the world to me more than an individual record,” Bader said. “That first year I got to play, and to lose by four to Texas, I’ll tell everyone I know that that’s the best moment of my career here at Oakland. Playing in the NCAA Tournament is great and I try to stress to all the guys on the team the significance it had to me and how much it means to be in the NCAA Tournament. They’re trying to do whatever they can to make it back there.”
Kampe and Bader hope to lead a surprise Golden Grizzlies surge to the top of their new league, but the big question surrounding Oakland is how its high-octane offense will fare in a typically grind-it-out Horizon League? But Oakland’s focus will be running their offense and how the rest of the league adapts.
Greg Kampe joked during Horizon League media day in Chicago that he couldn’t name, “10 players in the league right now,” but the only thing that likely matters to Kampe and Oakland is that everyone in the conference can name Travis Bader when they step on the floor this season. And they’ll have to stop Bader and Oakland from scoring.
“I know it’s a great league, very competitive with good defense,” Bader said. “I don’t know as much as everyone else and I’m kind of the same as Kampe right now. I saw a couple of games on TV last year and just from playing against them in the past, I know a bit.”
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