Kansas University sophomore Travis Releford should have no trouble rolling out of bed for 6 a.m. basketball Boot Camp conditioning sessions later this month.
The 6-foot-5 guard/forward has been up before dawn daily since the start of the semester taking part in his own personal early-bird training program.
“I get up, work out at 6 and then shoot at, like, 7,” said Releford, who is intent on playing meaningful minutes in 2010-11 following a productive red-shirt season.
“I worked out during the afternoons, then went to the gym and shot after that all summer. Now that I’m in school, my schedule is getting up early in the morning and getting stuff done then.”
Releford’s goal all last season — into the summer and start of the school year — has been to “work on my upper-body strength and quickness and constantly work on my shooting.”
The 210-pounder — he averaged 2.7 points off 56.9 percent shooting in limited duty his freshman season — believes he’s significantly improved the range on his shot. As such, he expects to do more than slash to the bucket for driving layups this season.
“You are going to expect to see jump shots from me. I’ve done all the work on it (shot), so why not try to get out there and shoot it?” Releford said. “It’s a lot better. It’s improved a lot.”
He explained the problem with his shot and the solution.
“Some people have said I never really had a bad shot. I just wasn’t too confident in it. I wasn’t trying to shoot to make it,” Releford said. “I’ve changed a few things (technically) about my jump shot. Other than that, not too much, except I’m a lot more confident.”
The confidence started to come at practice last season.
“When I red-shirted, playing against the starting five, I’d be the opponent’s best shooter most of the time,” he said of his role on the Red team. “I have worked on and improved my jump shot. Coach has noticed that, and my teammates have noticed it.”
Junior guard Tyshawn Taylor says Releford’s range extends beyond the three-point line.
“He hits it consistently in pick-up and when we are in practice,” Taylor said of the three. “Even last year on the Red team, when we were practicing, he’d hit it. It (stroke) looks good. We have to see if he can hit it when it means something, when it matters.
“I tell him all the time, it’s different in the fieldhouse with 16,300 (fans) screaming. It’s a different kind of pressure, but he can handle that.”
Noted coach Bill Self: “When we recruited him, we said, ‘He’s pretty good. All he needs to do is work on his stroke.’ He has worked on his stroke. He’s a natural scorer. He is a high-level defender. He has a chance to challenge for a starting spot.”
If he earns a spot in the rotation, it’ll be easy to see why.
“The new Travis has put in a lot of work. He’s been in the weight room every morning and in the gym shooting and lifting by himself. I see improvement in Travis every single day,” Taylor said.
The soft-spoken Releford seems intent on earning his keep.
“I’m very motivated,” he said. “I mean ... sitting out my red-shirt year and improving, I just want to get out there and show the world that I can play, you know?”
There were some rumors he might be playing college basketball with his brother, Trevor, this season at Alabama. Truth is, Travis never seriously considered transferring in the search of guaranteed playing time.
“Growing up in Kansas City, I kind of had no choice,” the Roeland Park Bishop Miege graduate said, referring to being a die-hard KU fan all his life. “Since I’ve been here I’ve always been on one of the top teams in the country. I just stuck with it.”
He doesn’t see his upcoming battle for playing time as Releford vs. Mario Little or anybody else who plays on the perimeter.
“It’s just me vs. me,” he said with a smile. “I’m motivated. We’re all motivated. We lost some good players (off a 33-3 team), but we feel we’re going to work hard and have a great season.”
Notes: Wichita Heights junior forward Perry Ellis, who will make an unofficial visit to KU on Tuesday, has decided to attend Memphis’ season-opening Midnight Madness on an unofficial visit. His sister, Savannah, is a senior on the Tigers’ women’s team. ... Former KU center Sasha Kaun scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Russia’s 89-80 victory over China on Wednesday at the world championships. He hit six of 11 shots and four of six free throws while playing 26 minutes.