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(From Sept. 1, 2016)
Romeo Travis is from Akron, Ohio, but now the whole world knows his name.
Sort of like LeBron James.
Actually, Travis has built a basketball name all his own, doing it his way, playing the game he loves and admittedly growing as a man in the process.
“It’s helped me become more cultured, and definitely helped me mature as a person more than maybe a lot of other situations would have,” Travis told Amico Hoops.
Travis was speaking from a hotel room in Macedonia. Not Macedonia, Ohio — we’re talking the country of Macedonia.
It borders Greece, with Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Kosovo as its other neighbors.
But if you know anything about Travis, you know he won’t be in Macedonia for long. He’s just there to help the national team try to qualify for next season’s Eurobasket.
After that, it’s off to Italy to continue his pro career.
It’s another nation, another stop on a basketball journey that has taken him from Germany to Israel to France to Croatia to Russia and the Ukraine. Oh, there was also a season with the Alaska Aces of the Philippine Basketball Association.
Basically, if there’s a country that knows about basketball, it has an eye on Travis.
“Every place is different,” Travis said. “Not better, not worse. Just different.”
The lifestyles and cultures vary, and in most instances, so does the basketball.
“For instance, in France, the players are athletic, bouncy,” Travis said. “In Croatia they’re maybe not quite as athletic but very sound fundamentally. Everywhere you go, you have to adjust your game.”
Travis is listed at 6-foot-7 and a hulking 220 pounds. He will forever be tied to James, and there are certainly worse guys to be linked to for all of basketball eternity.
The two were teammates at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, a two-time state champion and national champion in Travis’ senior year (2003).
Those Fighting Irish may be the most famous high school team of all time — with Dru Joyce II as coach, and Travis, James, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee and Dru Joyce III forming Akron’s own Fab Five.
“I had no siblings, no brothers or sisters,” James once said. “I really didn’t have anybody to lean on. I had these guys.”
Like James, Travis is 31 years old. Unlike James, Travis didn’t jump straight to the professional ranks right out of high school.
Instead, Travis spent all four years playing next to Joyce at the University of Akron. Another man with St. V ties, Keith Dambrot, was the coach and remains there today.
So it’s safe to say Travis is an Akron guy through and through.
As for the Zips, he completed his career as the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots. He finished seventh on the all-time scoring list and ninth in rebounds. He was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Year in 2006-07.
He is his own person, but he is forever part of a group that will always have a place in the hearts of Northeast Ohio fans.
“I still stay in touch with the guys, texting them and making sure everyone is good,” he said. “It will always be that way, I’m sure.”
CLOSE TO THE KING
Travis still returns to Akron once in a while and he closely witnessed James leading the Cavaliers to the first championship in franchise history this past June.
“I attended Game 4 and Game 6 (in Cleveland), and actually was in Miami to watch Game 7,” Travis said.
Then he spoke specifically about James.
“I was just so happy for the guy,” he said. “He was under so much scrutiny, all of it undeserved, for not winning one in Cleveland. I couldn’t be more proud.”
But if LeBron is the king of Akron basketball, Travis is certainly among its royal princes.
Like James, Travis greatly values family, friends and his hometown. Coaches around Europe and Ohio will tell you Travis is always polite, a good person who never behaves like he is owed something just because he plays basketball for a living.
On the floor, Travis is dominant underneath, relentlessly attacking the basket, drawing fouls and often scoring with brute force. Defensively, he may be even better, altering shots and muscling his way to rebounds.
But just like his personality off the floor, he has a reputation for being unselfish on it.
“I’ve been on a team where I got maybe four shots a game, and others where if I don’t score 17 and get eight rebounds, we lose,” he said. “You have to be able to adjust.”
Travis is engaged and he knows his playing days could be winding down. But maybe not, too.
His next stop is with an Italian club called Pallacanestro Cantù.
As Travis said, every situation is different. And the differences could be something that may seem small, but are actually a big deal to a basketball player in training.
“At St. V, I have the keys to the gym, but here (in Macedonia) it’s not that way,” he said. “Sometimes, I’ll want to get up shots on an off day, and that’s not gonna happen. But again, it’s just an adjustment. You have to approach every place with a different mindset.”
None of it is slowing down Travis. Not yet, anyway.
The only question remaining is how much longer he’ll continue to make his home somewhere other than Akron, somewhere other than America.
“I’m not sure, maybe another three, five years,” he said, laughing about where his overseas adventure has taken him.
“My wife may not want me to keep doing this. She may want me to come home. When that happens, I’ll know it’s time.”
Until then, he will continue to find a game wherever they will have him.
And right now, they seem to want Romeo Travis everywhere around the world.