Travis Smith is a 23 year old 190cm guard from Johns Island, South Carolina that will start his professional basketball career in Germany with pro B team Eintracht Stahnsdorf. H e played his last two years of college at Mercer and as a senior played 36 games: 13.9ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 47.2%, 3PT: 43.3%, FT: 89.8%. As a senior he reached the NCAA 2 Sweet 16 and was a A-Sun Regular Season Champion and A-Sun Tournament Finalist in 2013. Last season he toured around the world with a professional team. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball during the summer before he came to Germany.
Travis, thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and how have you been enjoying your summer?
I have had a great summer. I am currently in my hometown (Charleston, SC), and personally I have been training daily. Along with bettering myself I have been training kids and coaching at my old high school.
You finished up at Mercer in 2013 and didn´t play for a professional team last season. You were touring around the globe and visited countries like Guatemala and China. What basketball experiences did you encounter in the last year that you will never forget?
As you noted, I did not play professionally last year, but I was able travel and play basketball abroad. It was a great experience traveling and playing in both China and Guatemala. I always love and enjoy playing, but being able to experience their individual and unique cultures was a huge plus Drawing from this experience makes me optimistic for what is to come this season in Germany. I am really looking forward to the experience.
How tough was the last year not playing on a professional team in a country? Did you ever have doubts that you your professional career may never start? Who really helped you get through this period besides family and friends?
Not being able to play basketball professionally last year was extremely tough, but I was able to examine other sides of the game like refereeing and coaching. These two aspects of the game have helped me greatly as a player and should reflect this upcoming season in Germany. At one point during the beginning of the year I became worried about my basketball career, and rather I would get an opportunity to even start a career or not. Playing professionally has been a dream of mine since I was a child and I didn’t want to believe that it would not manifest. A lot of people helped me through this process, but my college coach Bob Hoffman and a member of the organization Athletes in Action played a major role in getting my career jumpstarted. They helped me get in contact with the club which led to me signing the contract.
You signed a contract with German Pro B team Eintracht Stahnsdorf. What sold you on coming to Germany to play on this team? Did you talk with head coach Peter Guenschel? What was your impression of him?
Well, like I said before I love playing basketball and always dreamed of playing professionally. When this opportunity presented it self it really peaked my interest. I asked some people that I knew that played professionally about the league and everyone had great things to say about the league and the country. In addition to that, Coach Guenschel and I exchange emails and after watching my highlight video and collegiate stats he believed that I would fit in well with his coaching style and the goals he was trying to accomplish with the club. Coach Guenschel is an experienced coach and look forward to working with and learning from him this upcoming season.
What do you know about German basketball? Some players from Mercer have played here like James Florence, Andrew Brown, Calvin Henry and Sidiki Straub.
To be honest I do not know much about German basketball. Since signing I have learned more. I realized that Germany has an appreciation for the sport and the fans really get excited about the games. One of the guys I lean on when it comes to professional basketball is James Florence. He has been really helpful and has encouraged me throughout this entire process. I am grateful that he has taken the time out to give me pointers with my career.
Stahnsdorf head coach Peter Guenschel is impressed with your versatile play. You are a very good shooter, but what is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away?
Hidden strengths that I poses in my game are both the efficiency in which I play and my defense. I proud myself in being as efficient as possible while I play. My last two season at Mercer I was 40% from the three-point line, close to 50% from the field, and close to 90% from the free-throw line. On top of that I normally guard the opposing teams biggest offensive threat on the wing. I just love to compete.
IT seems like you have always had to prove yourself as you started your college career at Presbyterian College where you set school assist records for single game and single season. Then you played at Gulf Coast Community College. How strong did this period make you? You played your last two seasons at Mercer and had very solid stats.
Nothing has really ever come easy for me, and I do not mind. I was raised to work hard and I have no problem doing so. I have proven myself everywhere I have been and will continue to do so. I enjoy competing and love winning. I love and respect the game of basketball have extreme confidence in myself, my game, and my skills. I’m am excited about showcasing my talents and helping this club win games this season.
What kind of experience was it playing in the 2013 NIT Sweet 16 and what will you always remember from the 90-71 loss to BYU in the NIT Sweet 16? In that loss to BYU, you played against future NBA player Brandon Davies and against sharp shooter Tyler Haws who can shoot out the lights. Could Haws be the next Klay Thompson in the NBA. Will he be a #1 NBA Draft pick?
The NIT was a great tournament, and we lost to a great BYU team. They shot the ball amazingly from long range that game and deserved to win the game. What I took away from that game was the importance of a team finding their rhythm in the post-season. Brandon Davies was a terrific post play who gave us lots of trouble in the paint, and Tyler Haws was very active and a pretty tough cover. I am not an NBA analyst so I can not really comment on rather Tyler will be an #1 draft pick but he definitely will be a pro.
What was the most important thing that you learned from Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman that has prepared you for a professional basketball career?
Bob Hoffman is a great basketball coach and an even better man. He taught me a lot of things about life, and helped me become a much better basketball player as well as a better man. I was blessed to have met him when I did and am grateful for the two years of teaching I received from him.
You played two seasons at Mercer with Langston Hall who is also preparing for a professional basketball career. How did you two guys make each other better in practice? Who won a one on one in practice you or Langson Hall?
Langston Hall was a big reason why I chose to sign with Mercer. I watched him play in the A-Sun tournament his freshman year when I was in Junior College at GCCC. As soon as I stepped on campus Langston and clicked, we had very similar ideas and views of how to play the game. In practice we pushed each other because both of us are natural competitors. We challenged each other to play at higher level daily and that preperation in practice translated to the games. We never really played one on one in practice that was not really coach Hoffman’s style, he is much more team orientied.
How does a normal work our day look like for Travis Smith on and off the court in the summer?
This summer my normal workout ruined consisted of two training sessions. In the morning I workout for a hour at 5:30 (ballhandling and a lot of shooting) take shower get some food and go to work at 7 am. I work at an auto repair company in Charleston, and most days I work from 7 am to 5pm. Once I get off, I go to the gym lift wieghts then play pickup basketball. The days I cannot find a pick up game, I just lift and do more skill work drills.
You played at Mercer which is in Macon, Georgia which is infested with many professional athletes that have come from there. If you had the choice between ex NBA player Jeff Malone and ex Los Angeles Laker Norm Nixon, who would chose to get a one hour basketball clinic on the court and in the video room?
It would be an hornor to meet and disscuss basketball with either one of those guys because of thier professonal experience, I have not watched a lot of Norm Nixon’s games but I have seen some of Jeff Malone’s. I liked a lot of things that Jeff Malone did on the court especially how he utlizes the mid range shot.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
The latest DVD movie that I have seen is “The Dark Knight Rises.” I had the first two so I bought the last movie to complete the trilogy. It was a really good movie.
Thanks Travis for the chat.