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Travis Wilkins will join the Bobcats next fall after playing two years at Snow College in Utah. Wilkins will be the oldest player on the team. (via Snow College Athletics)

Men's Basketball: Bobcats bring in sober shooter as junior-college transfer

Travis Wilkins is not the typical Ohio basketball recruit.

Though he will enter the upcoming season a junior, Wilkins will be older than every other guy on the team — including Walter Offutt, who former coach John Groce joked was older than even he.

The 23-year old shooting guard comes to Ohio after spending two years on a Mormon mission in Argentina, and the two years after that at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah.

But Snow coach Michael Ostlund said Wilkins is not a typical junior-college player, either.

“As far as junior college goes, he’s probably a really rare combination,” Ostlund said. “He’s a kid that was selected as a junior college All-American and also an academic All-American.

“You’re getting a super, high-character kid and a very talented basketball player. He’s also a tremendous student. He did get one A-minus, which really irritated him a lot.”

After previously committing to Southern Illinois, Wilkins decided to reopen his recruitment when Ohio assistant coach Anthony Stewart left the Salukis to join head coach Jim Christian’s staff at Ohio.

Stewart and Christian each recruited Wilkins in the past and teamed up to lure the 6-foot-3 guard to Athens.

“I was recruited by coach Stewart when he was at Southern Illinois and by coach Christian when he was at (Texas Christian),” Wilkins said. “I just got along with the coaches really well, and I’m excited to get to play for a team that’s done so well in the past.”

Wilkins will help to fill the role of former Ohio prospect Caris LeVert, who reopened his recruitment when Groce left Ohio.

Described by his former coach as a “well-rounded offensive player,” Wilkins does much of his damage from behind the 3-point line, a skill he believes caught the eye of the Ohio coaching staff.

In his final season at Snow, Wilkins averaged 17.2 points per game while shooting 46 percent from 3-point range and 48 percent from the floor.

“Travis has a skill set that’s very desirable. He’s a pure natural shooter,” Stewart said. “He plays defense and does all the small things — takes charges, gets rebounds, and he’s a better athlete than you think.

“He does all the things that it takes to win. He’s a winner.”

When Stewart left Southern Illinois, he said he was determined to bring Wilkins with him. But the decision was not entirely up to Wilkins.

In order to woo his recruit to Athens, Stewart also had to win over Wilkins’ wife, Daphne.

“The coaches had to recruit her at the same time they were recruiting me,” Wilkins said. “She had a lot of say, but she wasn’t too picky. A couple of the schools she didn’t really want to go to, but Ohio was one she would go to.”

After going on a few visits and talking with potential coaches, Daphne Wilkins gave her approval, and her husband committed to Ohio.

“It’s a different situation because Travis is making the decision for two people. It’s not just himself,” Stewart said. “In life I’ve learned this lesson: ‘Happy wife, happy life.’ ”

Keeping his wife happy is not the only life lesson Wilkins has learned. Wilkins said his time away from basketball, when he shared his beliefs with those he worked with, helped him become a more mature player and person.

“It’s definitely given me a different view on life,” he said.

Because Mormon beliefs prohibit drinking alcohol and other activities, Wilkins’ pious lifestyle might seem to conflict with campus culture, especially at Ohio, routinely named among the nation’s top party schools. But Wilkins said the reputation did not sway his decision.

“We definitely talked about that a little bit. We know that pretty much any school outside of Utah, or even in Utah, there’s parties that go on,” he said. “We won’t take in part in that. It’s our choice.

“We both grew up in Missouri where that kind of stuff was going on, so we’re a little used to that environment. It did play a little bit of a role, but not too much.”

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