Oakland guard Travis Bader has made 85 3-pointers in 19 games this season, tops in the country. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
Rochester — Time is on the side of Oakland senior Travis Bader.
If he has a few more shooting performance like the one he had last Wednesday, the national record for made 3-pointers could pass him by. But don’t count on it.
Chances are good Bader will break the career record of 457, held by Duke’s J.J. Redick (2002-06), at home against Youngstown State (Jan. 31) or at Milwaukee on Feb. 2.
Bader, with 442, needs 16 to pass Redick and with 12 regular-season games remaining, plus at least one Horizon League tournament game, the record is all but his. Bader missed all eight 3-point tries against Milwaukee (Jan. 8) and was 4-of-16 in Saturday’s 77-69 victory at Detroit. In 19 games, Bader leads the country with 85 threes (212 attempts). Akeem Richmond of East Carolina is second with 75 (191 attempts).
Oakland coach Greg Kampe has used up nearly all of his superlatives in describing Bader, his work ethic and his ability to shoot from long range.
“We’re talking about the best ever,” Kampe said. “This kid is going to be the best ever. When can you say that?
“We thought he could be a shooter when we signed him. Did we think he could be the best? No. We’ve had a lot of great shooters here like (Jason) Rozycki, (Brad) Buddenborg, (Kevin) Kovach, Reggie (Hamilton) and (Erik) Kangas. We’ve won a lot of games with that type of kid.
“His work ethic is beyond reproach. It’s unbelievable. If you had a key to this place and came here every day, you’d see him 80 percent of the time. Describing it doesn’t do it justice. Kangas didn’t work that way. Reggie had that work ethic. Drew Valentine had that. And Drew and Bader were best of friends. Valentine pushed Bader.”
Valentine is one of many Bader credits with helping him become such a prolific shooter. His father, Richard Bader, was the first. His high school coach, Dan Stolz, was next. Ryan Erickson, Bader’s teammate and good friend at Okemos, was another. It’s a long list that includes Kampe and his assistant coaches, notably Saddi Washington.
“It’s exciting,” Bader said of chasing Redick. “It’s something special but it’s special for the whole program, not just me. I’m trying not to think about it when I’m out there. But I do think about it from time to time.
“It speaks about the coaches here and what they’ve done for me. It’s Drew Valentine setting a million screens. He doesn’t get enough credit for that. It’s Reggie Hamilton driving and then throwing it out to me.”
Bader’s shot is textbook. It’s a true jump shot, one he releases at the apex with plenty of arc. At 6-foot-5½, he’s able to shoot over most guards and small forwards.
It wasn’t always so fluid. In middle school Bader shot a set shot, releasing it from his chest.
“It was ugly,” he said. “I was shooting like it was a two-handed chest-pass type of stuff. Then in the seventh grade, my dad took me to a game at the Breslin Center and when we got home, he had me shoot left-handed (Bader’s off hand) all day. He said my form was really good. Then in the eighth grade Stan Stolz spent endless hours with me. He had me wear a pad over my left hand to keep my thumb away from the ball. Stan Stolz, Dan’s father, would have me work on pogo jumps, a drill where you’d take one step and release it at the top of my jump. We’d start from two feet away and work our way back. Dan and Stan really helped me out a lot.”
By the time he was a junior Bader found a rhythm, was the shooting guard in Stolz’s lineup and averaged nearly 14 points. The next year, he was named player of the year in the area by the Lansing State Journal and Oakland offered him a scholarship.
As a freshman Bader came to Oakland at 6-3 and 155 pounds. Kampe decided to redshirt Bader to give him time to get stronger.
Nearly three inches and 35 pounds later, Bader has become the best perimeter shooter in the country. In addition to the national record he’s chasing, Bader owns the school record for 3-pointers in a season (139) and in a game (11). Stephen Curry (Davidson) holds the record for 3-pointers (162) in a season.
“When you’re in a rhythm, there’s no thinking at all,” he said. “It just flows. Shooters keep shooting. You just let it go and work about the next play.
“When you’re hot, it’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s something … I feel like I can pull up from just inside half court and make it. The basket just keeps expanding.”