Travis Walton(Ratiopharm Ulm) Good Things Happen When I Enter The Court
Travis Walton is a 23 year old 187cm point guard from Lima, Ohio. He is playing his first season with Ratiopharm Ulm. He played at Michigan State from 2005-2009 where he served as team captain for three consecutive years, being the 3rd in history of Michigan State school to do that. Led the Big 10 in assist to turnover ratio 2.4 to 1 and broke Magic Johnson’s career assist record at Michigan State. Walton possesses great toughness, strength and leadership skills and is an exceptional defender. Last season he played shortly for Lugano Tigers (Switzerland-LNA, starting five), left in Dec.’09: 13 games: 8.9ppg, 1.2rpg, Assists-5(4.9apg), 1.5spg, FGP: 52.6%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 85.7% before returning back to Michigan State to help the coaching staff. Some achievements that he has received were Big Ten Tournament Semifinals -06, 08, 09, Big Ten All-Defensive Team -07, 09, NCAA Sweet 16 -08, Big Ten Regular Season Champion -09, and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year -09. He spoke German Hoops about basketball recently.
You know BBC Bayreuth American Marcus Ginyard from the NCAA and North Carolina. How much potential does he have as a player?
Any time, you come form a school like North Carolina, you will have skills. He is very athletic and made some big plays against us. He also has a nice jump shot.
BBC Bayreuth might be the most talented 17th place team ever. What are their main problems? Do you think it could be a mental thing?
I think it could be. They have a great roster with Ginyard coming from North Carolina, an ex NBA player with Jared Reiner and a good point guard with Danny Gibson. They lost some close game, but I think that they will surprise a lot of teams in the future.
This is your first season with Ratiopharm Ulm. What do you like most about Germany?
Germany is a very nice country. It is always good when you come to a country where every one speaks English. I like the people in Germany. I also have a friend on an Army base and sometimes I go there to be able to get American things.
Ratiopharm Ulm didn’t start so strong. What have been the biggest problems so far?
We have to improve on defense. Our offense has been getting better. We are one of the worst three point shooting teams in the league and have to improve that. We have to continue to rebound on a consistent level in order to keep up with teams like Bamberg, Berlin and Frankfurt. We have the right players to take the step.
I believe that Ratiopharm is a playoff team. Do the players think this also?
I think that we are also a playoff team. We try not to think to much about to add extra pressure. We all believe it, but just try not to talk about. Things will take care of themselves.
That Ratiopharm Ulm has the ability to score is no secret, but early in the season the team gave up more than 80 points seven times. What are the main problems on defense?
We can improve many things like containing the dribble, ball screen defense, post defense and help side defense.
Ratiopharm Ulm is a young team. Do you think that one more experienced player is missing behind 30 year old Sean Sonderleiter?
There seems to be this perception in Europe that teams always need experienced guys to be successful. However in order to get experience one needs to learn and play. Having an experienced player isn’t going to change a team. We have had our up and downs, are young, but I feel that we can do good things.
Big man John Bryant seems to have been a big steal for Ratiopharm Ulm. What is his biggest strength as a player?
He has a great feel for the game. This is his first season and who would of thought that he would play sow ell? He stays with his strength and takes high percentage shots. He has a very high basketball IQ with scoring and rebounding. I think that he could compete at an ylevel in the world.
You are playing your first season in Germany. I am sure that you were expecting more minutes?
Yes I did expect to play more. It is tough for me to be in this situation, but I have to make the best of it. Gunther is a very good player.
How tough is it for a Michigan State player who beat Magic Johnson all time assist record play behind a German?
It is difficult, but I have a lot of respect for Per Gunther.
How is your relationship with Per Gunther? How do you help each other on the court?`
We have a good relationship. In practice we go very hard at each other and just compete. I try to apply as much pressure as possible. I can learn from him by just sitting on the bench and watching. I like his ability to score and help the team.
What is a strength in your game that isn’t always recognizable?
I think just knowing the game. I have a high basketball IQ and feel I have been playing well for the minutes that I have gotten. Good things happen when I enter the court.
What do you still need to improve in your game?
I have to get better at being able to score in many different ways. My shot has improved, but choosing when and how to shoot has to improve.
Coach Mike Taylor is know for having a special way for getting players to come to Ulm. How did he get you to come?
Coach Taylor is a great motivator, good guy and just a great seller of the Ulm concept. He did a good job selling me on the organization and how nice the city of Ulm is.
What do you like most about the city of Ulm?
I like how Ulm is small, but not small enough to not be able and go out and do different things. It is a beautiful comfortable town.
Is there any German food that you don’t like?
No not really. I am a basic guy. I like Wiener Schnitzel.
You are from Lima, Ohio. What was your childhood like?
I had a regular childhood coming from a small town, being less fortunate but making the best out of my condition. We all stuck together and it was a family town.
Why do so many good basketball players come from Ohio?
I think it is because of the competition. You are competing year round and it is a self pride thing. You want to be the best in the state. Having guys like Lebron James and OJ Mayo coming from Ohio just makes you want to compete more.
Who were your NBA idols?
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Baron Davis and Allen Iverson.
You were captain at Michigan State for three years. What was the most difficult thing being captain?
Just learning the players. I had to be a leader at all times and sometimes having to tell friends things they didn’t want to hear. We all respected each other. I got a good reputation as a guy that really worked hard after I wasn’t expected to play much coming in after guys like Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager had played there.
How disappointing was losing the 2009 NCAA final against North Carolina?
It was disappointing, but at the same time a big achievement since we knocked off big time schools with future NBA players like USC, Kansas, Louisville and UCONN. With North Carolina, they were an NBA team in the making.
What was the most important thing that you learned from coach Tom Izzo at Michigan State?
The most important thing that I learned from him was to stick to your dreams and even if things don’t work out all the time, if you work hard then it will pay off in the end.
You played together with Drew Neitzel at Michigan State. He doesn’t have a team at the moment. Have you been surprised that his basketball career in Europe hasn’t taken off yet?
Yes I have been surprised. He was a big part of the success at Michigan State and always worked hard. I don’t really know what has happened to him in Europe, but I think that he hasn’t been in right situation yet. He is a good player that can make the big plays. He had a good run in France.
Can your ex Michigan State teammate Kalin Lucas reach the NBA?
Yes he can as well as Dorrell Summers.
Who won a one on one in practice, you or Kalin Lucas?
I could guard him well since he was a bit smaller than me. We had very competitive games where he would score and I would score. It went both ways.
You played well for Lugano as a rookie last season being the fifth best assist man, but was cut. That must of really hurt?
Yes it did and it was a tough time, but I went back to Michigan State and got my degree and helped coach Michigan State. Lugano wanted an older player and I was young.
With your early coaching experience at Michigan State, do you ever help Mike Taylor?
I let him do his job. If I see something on the court, I will tell him.
What were the most free throws that you made in a practice?
What was your most crazy shot you ever made?
In high school, I made a shot from behind the back board.
Who wins a one on one, you or Per Gunther?
What was the last DVD that you saw?
The Kevin Heart show.
Thanks Travis for the chat.