ROCHESTER, Mich. – Perhaps in sports more than any other aspect of life, there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness.
Oakland senior Travis Bader exudes confidence. The sharpshooter’s 139 made 3-pointers set new single season school and Summit League records during the 2012-13 campaign. He’s on pace to set a new all-time NCAA record for made 3-pointers in a career. And this summer at a Nike Skills camp hosted by NBA all-star Kevin Durant, Bader drilled a stepback 3-pointer with Durant himself playing close defense.
“You’re talking about a kid who averaged 22.5 (points) a game. He led the nation in 3-pointers made, 3-pointers attempted, 3-pointers per game; he’s 101 threes away from being the all-time 3-point maker in the history of college basketball,” Golden Grizzlies head coach Greg Kampe said of his wing. “I mean, that’s saying something. We’re talking about the history of the game. Kids like that have a great belief in themselves. He knows he’s the leader of this team, he knows what we expect out of him and he’s somebody that’s always going to step up and rise to the challenge.”
And yet, Bader remains humble. Given the opportunity to brag about the shot he hit in Durant’s face, Bader instead spoke with admiration about the fact that the Oklahoma City Thunder swingman was willing to get out there and run the floor with a bunch of college kids.
“It would have been easy for him to kind of stand off to the side and watch his own camp, you know, and maybe give us some instruction,” Bader said in a phone interview. “But he laced ‘em up and he played against us every day and did drills with us and just really competed. He wanted to win whatever drill or game it was.”
Only then – having given credit where he saw credit due – Bader added, “It was pretty cool, you know, just to have an NBA superstar guarding you for a second and then to have a moment like that; it was pretty special.”
Durant shouldn’t feel anymore discouraged than any other player who has tried to defend Bader off the 3-point line. The senior has made at least one 3-pointer in 53 straight games, the longest streak in the country. With 357 made 3-pointers during his Golden Grizzlies career, he is just 100 away from tying former Duke guard J.J. Reddick for the NCAA record. Bader’s 101st made 3-pointer during the 2013-14 season will rewrite the record book.
Bader already owns the Oakland record for made 3-pointers in a career and last year set the single season marks for the program and the Summit League. Now, he has Horizon League records within his sights.
The conference record for made 3-pointers in a season belongs to Darrin Fitzgerald, who hit 158 for Butler in 1986-87. Fitzgerald also set the single-game record at 12 during that season. Bader’s career-high for made 3-pointers in a single game is 11, which he set against IUPUI on Jan. 24 while scoring 47 points.
Believe it or not, however, Kampe doesn’t see Bader as one-dimensional. He’s not just a shooter.
“I’ve read a lot of things where people that were watching it have said he’s the best shooter [at the Nike Skills camp]. We already knew all that,” Kampe said. “But he’s not your stereotypical 6-foot-5, standstill shooter. He’s a guy that can read screens and come off. I think they found out the kid’s really a good player.
“I was not allowed to be at the camp, but from what I’ve heard, I think he has exonerated himself from this idea that he’s just a shooter. I think they were surprised at how athletic he is at 6-foot-5; he’s very long and he can guard and those kinds of things.”
It’s understandable for pundits and fans that don’t get to see Oakland in action often and can only interpret what they see in a box score to misinterpret Bader as only a shooter. But Bader was thankful for the opportunity to show off his entire skill set at the Nike Skills camp.
“It was a great experience for me,” Bader said. “Coming from a mid-major, you don’t get as much recognition as from some of the bigger schools. So it was cool for me to get that recognition and to be labeled as one of the top wings in the country.”
Now, Bader is ready to show those skills to Horizon League fans – and Horizon League opponents. Both Bader and Kampe said they consider Oakland’s status as the new kids on the block to be fortuitous for the Golden Grizzlies.
“I think that’s an advantage for us, because we don’t know them but they don’t know us either,” Kampe said. “Valpo’s played against us the past couple of years, but other than that none of these schools really know our system.”
If the recent non-conference series against Valparaiso is any indication, Horizon League fans are in for a treat as Oakland enters its first season in the conference. The Golden Grizzlies have beaten the Crusaders each of the past two seasons by scores of 82-80 and 70-68, respectively. The year before, Valpo won 103-102.
Oakland also played a memorable postseason game against Youngstown State in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament following the 2012-13 season. The Golden Grizzlies with led by 30 points from Bader, but fell 99-87 in one of those games that was closer than the final score indicates. The Penguins were led by 31 points from Kendrick Perry and 27 from Blake Allen.
“No one’s going to call us a defensive juggernaut,” Kampe admitted. “We’re a team that has won and had success, and we’ve done that at the offensive end. We’re a team that can outscore people.”
Of course, outscoring opponents gets considerably easier when you have the potential future NCAA leader in made 3-pointers in a career on your team. Led by Bader, the Golden Grizzlies could be set to make an impressive Horizon League debut.
“I think that Horizon League fans will figure out that we’re a competitive group,” Bader said. “We are kind of unknown to most of these schools. I think people are going to see right away that Oakland belongs in the Horizon League, and I think that we have the chance to do something pretty special.”