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Updated: March 27th, 2013 10:33pm
Despite Smith's firing, Reid Travis hasn't lost interest in Gophers

Despite Smith's firing, Reid Travis hasn't lost interest in Gophers

by Nate Sandell
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Reid Travis had heard the rumors, but he didn't buy into them.

When news of the Minnesota Gophers' decision to fire men's basketball coach Tubby Smith surfaced on Monday, the 'U' recruiting target was caught off guard.

"My first reaction was that I was just shocked," Travis, a junior four-star recruit ( from DeLaSalle high school, recently told KSTP-TV.

"I was just surprised. There have been rumors for a while about it actually happening, but I didn't think it would be this year or the years to come. I thought he would be around for a while."

Travis had formed a close bond with Smith and his coaching staff during several unofficial visits he had made and the multitude of games at Williams Arena he has attended. The Gophers have been trying to convince Travis to turn down offers from Michigan State, Notre Dame, Iowa State and a number of other schools in favor of staying close to home.

But even with Smith gone and the Gophers in the midst of a coaching search, Travis said he still has a "strong interest" in Minnesota.

"I don't think it affects it too much," Travis said of Smith's departure. "From my perspective of it, I understand that things happen with certain coaches, but when you're looking at a school you're looking at more than the coach. Of course you want to have a strong relationship with the coach or whoever else they are bringing in, but you've got to look at a lot different things of how the school is."

That could be good news for the Gophers, regardless of whom University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague lands to head up the program.

Travis is one of the state of Minnesota's "big three" 2014 recruits, along with highly-sought after Apple Valley point guard Tyus Jones and Robbinsdale Cooper high school's Rashad Vaughn -- both of whom are considered five-star prospects. The Gophers are pursuing all three players.

The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Travis recently led DeLaSalle to its second straight Minnesota Class 3A state championship. Averaging 23.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game in his junior season, Travis was named co-Minnesota Associated Press Player of the Year with Jones.

Whomever the Gophers bring in as their next coach, there will be time, albeit a small window of opportunity, for the newcomer to make a renewed pitch to Travis. Travis doesn't plan on making a commitment until the fall.

Even with his basketball potential considered to be higher, he is still weighing the option of pursuing college football. Travis, DeLaSalle's starting quarterback, has offers from Boston College, Rutgers and Iowa, with coach Jerry Kill's Gophers also showing interest.

"I'm nowhere close in the deciding process," Travis said. "There are so many things wide open right now. I still have to see. Basketball? Football? Both? What school? I have to take some visits and kind of go from there."

In the meantime, Travis will play AAU basketball again in the spring and summer, though he said he is still "feeling out a couple programs."

Travis will also await the Gophers' eventual head coach announcement.

At his news conference Monday announcing Smith's firing, Teague said he had short list of candidates in mind. One of those primary targets, Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart, is no longer in the picture. VCU revealed on Wednesday night that it had signed the 35-year-old mastermind behind the school's 2011 Final Four run to a contract extension.

With Smart out, there is continued debate about  the Gophers' next choice. Marquette's Buzz Williams, Alabama's Anthony Grant and Florida Gulf Coast's Andy Enfield have been among the names that have surfaced.

Getting a coach with a high recruiting ability is a key factor in Teague's search.

"It's my intention to bring in somebody that will compete with everybody in the country and on a national level to recruit," Teague said. "We want somebody who does that, and as I said, develops them on and off the floor, someone who manages the program at the highest level."

Nate Sandell is a contributor to
Email Nate | @nsandell