A Rollercoaster: Dylan Travis’ Journey to USA Basketball and 3x3
Dylan Travis likens his basketball career to a ride on a rollercoaster.
He played for four different coaches at three different schools in college before venturing overseas to play professionally in Europe for a few years. First, he attended Midland University, which sits 30 minutes outside of Omaha, Nebraska, for the 2012-13 season. A year later, he found himself at Iowa Central Community College before making the jump to Florida Southern College, an NCAA Division II school, for the final two years of his collegiate career.
At every stop, Travis, 29, has genuinely internalized what it means to “be adaptable,” he said. In nine years of playing basketball beyond the high school level, he played for nine different coaches. And each coach saw the game differently. Hence, where instability is viewed as a hindrance in sports, Travis chose to view it as a strength in his story.
“That set me up for where I am at now,” Travis said. “That’s a lot of basketball minds to learn the game from. And it’s where I get my [basketball] IQ from. My whole career, I’ve always had a different coach. So it’s always embracing a different role, different personalities, and I feel like that is a strength of mine – knowing how I fit in and using my game with whoever I am playing with.”
Travis’ strength of shifting to meet a team’s current need plays into his next step with USA Basketball – the 2022 FIBA 3x3 Men's AmeriCup in Miami, which starts Nov. 4 and runs to Nov. 6.
Alongside Jimmer Fredette, Kareem Maddox and Canyon Barry, he aims to win the USA another gold medal after USA Basketball claimed gold in the 2021 inaugural rendition of the competition.
“Me, Canyon and Kareem, we all have 3x3 experience,” Travis said. “And then we have Jimmer. That’s a lot of experience. I think it will play out really well.”
Despite Travis being a USA national team newcomer, he has enjoyed success on the 3x3 circuit with 3BALL Omaha, playing in both domestic and international tournaments.
The game he remembers and defines as a “big deal” during the burgeoning days of his 3x3 career was winning the 2021 Red Bull USA Basketball 3X Nationals over powerhouse Team Harlem, 21-20.
Travis scored seven points in that game, and his final basket came on a game-tying layup (20-20) that set 3BALL Omaha up for victory.
What stands out about his game is a never-say-no attitude and a certain carefulness in his decisive use of slithery athleticism that creates angles out of impasses -- opportunities where initially there appeared none.
“We were the new guys on the block,” he said. “Beating Harlem at the [Naismith Memorial] Basketball Hall of Fame, that was awesome.”
He won’t jump over anyone, and he doesn’t possess blow-away speed, but he has heart, which makes him different.
“My hustle and my heart, I am not jumping above the rim and dunking,” he said. “But what I lack in athleticism, I make up for with IQ and shooting ability.”
His remedy for success in 3x3 has appeared to work. Travis has played 153 games on the pro circuit, and it’s the heart he always speaks of that has continuously endeared him to this unique version of the game.
As a staunch 5-on-5 player, Travis was a bit unsure of 3x3. He didn’t know much about the game and he’d only seen it a few times. But when the COVID-19 pandemic paused his original plans to play in Australia, he stumbled into 3x3 through Michael Wranovics, 3BALL’s founder. And somewhere along the way, he fell in love with the game because it required him to sharpen skills that fit every aspect of the game.
The skills of note include defending multiple positions, handling the ball well and scoring efficiently. On the surface, those seem like basic tenets of playing basketball, but to Travis, it highlights the versatility needed to play 3x3 at a high level.
“You need to be able to do everything,” he said. “If you can’t guard, that’s a problem. If you can’t shoot, dribble and pass, good luck. You can’t have any blemishes in your game.”
Once hooked, Travis couldn’t leave the game alone. Between the travel, the quick gameplay and the success his 3BALL Omaha team enjoyed, Travis believes that 3x3 helped revitalize his career.
“It’s kind of been like a new beginning,” he said. “This kind of restarted my basketball career. I thought when COVID happened, that I was done. And then this happens, Omaha takes off, and then the USA National Team selections happen. So just as I think things are good, they become great.”
Originally, Travis was ready to put a bookend on his USA Basketball 3x3 career. He didn’t make the AmeriCup team last year. And he wasn’t chosen for the World Cup team last summer. Despite his initial disappointment in not making the final rosters, he never let it dissuade him from “the grind,” he said.
That’s what made his selection for the 2022 AmeriCup team special – he faced not making the team previously and chose to get better from it.
“Wearing USA on your chest, it’s a gold medal or nothing,” Travis said. “We know what we need to do in the AmeriCup. Anytime you have USA, and its international competition, that’s the expectation.”
Travis may describe his basketball career as a rollercoaster, but each stop – or bump in the road – has led him to exactly where he’s supposed to be. And frankly, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m ready to get after it,” Travis said. “I feel like we've got a good team to make some noise down there.”
Ian Kayanja is a freelance reporter on behalf of usab.com.