Versatile Travers ready to embrace Wildcats after stint with NBA's Cavs

The Perth Wildcats will begin NBL23 in the chasing pack, seeking a return to the postseason after their historic 35-year run burst in the most dramatic of circumstances a season ago.

A new coach and a new cast of imports top the list of changes in the west, but it's the returning Luke Travers who draws as much intrigue as any individual at the club.

Selected with the 56th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers opted to continue the 20-year-old's development in the NBL, with the Wildcats the clear beneficiaries of a wild offseason for the rising star.

By his own admission, a weight has been lifted from his shoulders ahead of the season, with the burning spotlight of NBA Draft speculation in the rear vision mirror, and the joy of playing basketball well and truly back.

"Now that it's happened, obviously there is still a lot of work to get to the NBA, but I was so focused on playing well without doing it if that makes sense," Travers told ESPN's Ball and the Real World Podcast.

"I was going out there and wanting to play well, I was so focused on getting drafted but now it's happened, I've experienced the Boomers and Summer League, now it's a bit of a relief that it's all over. I can just go out there and enjoy it which I sort of missed out on last year."

As the Wildcats' season came to a crushing close in April, ESPN reported that Travers had declared for the draft, with reality setting in that the NBA dream was just months away.

"A lot of nerves, there was so much unknown," he said. "Having Daniel Moldovan as my agent helps, but he can only tell you so much. Experiencing it is a whole new ball game, I didn't know what to expect.

"Once you start getting into things and experience the first couple of workouts it definitely makes it easier. You get more settled but going over there I was super nervous and excited to meet new people."

Travers worked out for eight NBA teams in the pre-draft process, with the Cavaliers ultimately emerging as a suitor for his multi-faceted skillset.

"They have mentioned versatility which is something that I have managed to show a little bit lately," he said. "Even going back to last year playing a bit of point guard behind Mitch Norton. For the Boomers there was a bit of point guard but also a lot off ball and then Summer League was a good mix.

"Versatility is a big thing, they start three seven-footers, they're a super young team so I think that's what they were looking for and hopefully I can show that off in the future."

Versatility is a basketball buzz word, with designated positions hardly worth consideration. If you can't guard multiple positions, it's difficult to stick in the NBA if you aren't an elite bucket getter.

So what is Luke Travers on the basketball court?

"That's a good question," he pondered.

"It's just basketball, it's position-less so one through four, even the five a little bit, that's what I enjoy, being able to do a little bit of everything.

"I think that's just been a big thing for me growing up, I never wanted to have a weak spot in my game, that's how it's always been. I might not have some of the clear strengths other players do, but there aren't too many weaknesses, that's how I've always modelled my game."

Like many young prospects on the precipice of the NBA, the outside shot is often referenced as the swing skill. Travers is confident in his progression in that area of the game, with his physical makeup the other focus area after spending Summer League with the Cavaliers.

"My body is a big one. I want to put on a bit of muscle, but I don't want to lose my speed and vertical. Just getting stronger and then ball handling," Travers said. "That will go a long way to being able to play a little bit of point guard and then the size will help with playing the four spot a little more.

"I think I'm about 97 kilos right now, which is still a long way from where I started three years ago where I was around 89. I don't want to lose the speed, but (I want to be) around the 100 kilo mark."

Predominantly playing a role off the bench for the Wildcats over the last two seasons, Travers is ready to buy into whatever role head coach John Rillie presents him.

"To be honest, I'm not really fussed, that's the culture we have brought in," he said. "I'm not phased about (starting), that's always been a thing for me. No matter what my role is I'll bring the energy, do the little things. Whether it's me or Todd (Blanchfield), we are on the same page, we're just going to do the little things and outwork the opponent.

"The way he wants to play is going to suit my game, super versatile, switching, playing out in transition. I think that's where I'm at my best, so I want to say my game is going to suit and I'm definitely looking forward to this year for sure."

For now, it's the Wildcats. In the future, he hopes it's the Cavaliers. While the fun might have returned, he knows the pressure remains, with the eyes of the franchise certain to keep a watchful eye on his development throughout NBL23.

"They've been watching my Boomers games (and) flicking me some texts here and there," he said. "I think they've got some plans to come out to Australia sometime coming up. To have that contact and support, knowing they're watching my games is definitely a positive and definitely going into the future it gives me something to look forward to."