Seeing the light
Summer training camp helps Travis Trice grow spiritually and physically
Sometimes on the big stage, when nobody expects it, the curtain opens up and the spotlight shines on whoever is standing at the center.
With senior guard Keith Appling out indefinitely with a wrist injury, junior guard Travis Trice has joined one of the most scrutinized student groups at MSU — the basketball team’s starting lineup.
In his two games as a starter against Penn State and Wisconsin, Trice has protected the ball like he owns it, dishing out nine assists and committing zero turnovers.
Trice’s Daily Summer Schedule
5:30 a.m.?Wake up
6:30 a.m.?Go to the gym to lift
Roughly 8 a.m.?Breakfast
10 a.m. – noon?Shoot around at the gym
Noon – 1 p.m.?Eat lunch
Roughly 2 p.m.?Back to the gym for a few hours
5 p.m.?Get dressed and go to either the sandpit for agilities or run stairs at Hoover Dam
After 5 p.m.?Eat dinner
Go to Bible study at night (Monday and Wednesday only)
Although there are facets the Huber Heights, Ohio native can improve on, head coach Tom Izzo likes what he sees out of his new starting point guard.
“I think he’ll get better this week,” Izzo said. “I think he’s done a better job than I thought he would do. It makes me feel good for this year and next.”
But why is the present and future of the Spartans back court looking so bright? How could a player with an injury-riddled career be boosting MSU in the middle of the season?
To find the answer, hit the rewind button, jump in the car and head south to Columbus, Ohio, where Trice trained during the most pivotal summer of his life.
Long summer days
This past summer, Trice was one of roughly a dozen guys from the basketball training group In God’s Image to beat the sun out of bed five days a week. But for the group of Ohio-based basketball players, waking up at 5 a.m. was one of the easier parts of their day.
“Wake up, get to the gym at 6:30 a.m., lift, eat breakfast, an hour later we go to the gym at 10 a.m. to (noon), then go eat lunch,” Trice said, explaining his daily schedule.
After lunch, Trice said the group of high school, college and professional players training with In God’s Image would go to the gym for another hour. His trainer and mentor Anthony Rhodman then had his players cap off the day by running the stairs at a dam in Columbus, or doing agilities at a nearby sandpit.
One person who went through the daily grind with Trice is longtime friend and Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson, who hit the game-winning shot in MSU’s 60-58 loss to the Badgers. Seeing a good friend hit the gut-wrenching shot softened the blow for Trice, but was anything but surprising, as Trice saw a whole summer filled with that move.
“We even joked about it (Monday) night, saying at one point ‘I’m mad that we lost,’ but when I look back I’m happy for him,” Trice said. “As soon as he shot it, I turned around because I knew it was going in.”
Although his game and fitness made strides in his few months with the program, Trice’s father, Travis Trice Sr., said his biggest improvement had nothing to do with a basketball or his vertical jump.
“The biggest change didn’t come from sports at all,” he said. “The (change) is that spiritually he found himself.”
After beating themselves up training on Mondays and Wednesdays, the In God’s Image group held a Bible study session. Through that, not basketball training, Travis Trice learned one of his biggest lessons from former Michigan guard and current Utah Jazz member Trey Burke.
“(Sometimes) someone labeled as a guy that is spiritual or a guy who goes to church is usually a nice guy and not successful,” Trice said. “But he is living proof you can be different and still be successful.”
College campuses are hot springs for temptation, and even though highly-touted student athletes don’t have much time for going out, the prospect can be alluring.
“There is a lot of time committed to this game,” sophomore forward Matt Costello said. “We don’t have a lot of time to go out and do other things, so it is a little harder, but it is possible.”
Travis Trice is proof that despite the pressure of hanging out with his teammates or being the head-turner at bars, avoiding that lifestyle was a possibility.
“I was just one of the guys, whatever they were doing whether that’s going out or partying, I was doing that,” Travis Trice said. “As far as being out and doing all the other stuff, I’ve cut out from that … that’s one of the hardest things to do.”
Opting to spend more time focusing on himself and the Bible and less time living a life he wasn’t into could easily have been taken with a sour attitude with his teammates. It just wasn’t the case though, as his fellow Spartans backed him instead of ostracizing him.
“They will be going out or going to do things that they know I don’t do, and instead of getting mad at me, they understand that and respect me more,” Trice said.
He also relies on his teammates to stay on his strengthened spiritual path.
Junior forward Russell Byrd, who was called an encyclopedia for lengthy knowledge on the Bible, and Costello are two of the teammates he is closest to when it comes to talking about religion.
Not only has Trice bounced thoughts and questions off his teammates, but he also has helped people from In God’s Image change themselves.
University of Missouri-St. Louis senior guard Darian Cartharn, who met Trice this summer, said seeing him lately rise to the occasion after sitting behind Appling and staving off distractions from injuries has shown him to always be prepared.
“He just taught me to stay focused and keep working so you can be a leader and not a follower,” Cartharn said.
If college athletes could have sponsorships, Travis Trice would be a good candidate to endorse Advil. Missing nearly a dozen games in his career, it would have been simple to be down in the dumps after looking back at his injury-plagued career. The summer before his sophomore year, Trice also battled a mysterious brain infection.
But after his summer of growth and change, Trice has a more positive outlook.
“There were certain times this year where me being sick or me being hurt put me out for two weeks, and I would be down in the dumps,” Trice said. “Now, I just feel like I’m at a better place where things happen … there is light at the end of the tunnel and the best is yet to come.”
Trice doesn’t have to go far for other support while dealing with his injury. His dad, who coached him for four years at Huber Heights’ Wayne High School, also dealt with adversity from injury after wrapping up his college career at Butler.
While preparing for tryouts with NBA teams, Travis Trice Sr. was hit with something that changed his life — he suffered two torn ligaments in his ankle, all but ending his hopes to be an NBA player. But just like his son, grief turned into looking at the bigger picture of his injury.
“It wasn’t in the cards for me, and it took me a while to acknowledge and realize that,” the elder Trice said. “But it’s done some positive things in my life, like mentoring young men while coaching high school basketball and raising my own family and (other) things to be proud of.”
Through the help of In God’s Image, his fellow Ohio ballers and learning from his dad’s experiences, Travis Trice is giving MSU and his dad something else to be proud of.
“I think he is a better person than he was eight months ago, and I think (the program) had an impact on his life,” Travis Trice Sr. said. “And I still truly believe the Michigan State Spartans have not seen the best of Travis Trice yet, and it’s on its way.”