Jan. 15, 2004
By Robyn Hanson
SCU Media Relations
The typical surfer stereotype; laid back, go with the flow individuals taking in the sun as life passes them by. You would never assume one of the most intense players in the WCC came straight from the beaches of Southern California.
Travis Niesen's aggression on the basketball court seems contagious, affecting both his teammates and those who watch him. Always playing with a true heart made Niesen the perfect fit for the Kevin O'Connor Most Inspirational Award at the recent Cable Car Classic hosted by SCU. This award is based on how a player is perceived by others and evaluates the individual's character, energy, effort and enthusiasm for the team.
"I'm excited that Niesen is a recipient of the award because of his energy, how hard he plays, and the determination he has," Davey explained. "He's as much deserving of that award as anyone else that has ever received it because he epitomizes hard work, energy and effort." Davey said Niesen displayed these qualities not only during the tournament but all season long.
Davey raved of Niesen's toughness saying "he accepts challenges and doesn't back down from anything."
It's this ever-important quality that sparked Davey's interest during recruitment. The coaches liked what they saw in Niesen with his high energy level and enthusiasm for the game. "He has a determination to win and wants his team to be successful," Davey described. "Any coach in America would appreciate that."
Travis considers himself to be a different person during basketball season, as he stays focused on schoolwork and playing ball. "There's no time for anything else," he said. Playing such an intense sport with a rigorous work out schedule while attending school would seem daunting to most but Niesen says he doesn't mind because he loves basketball. The summer provides time for other activities like surfing jiu-jitsu, playing guitar and volleyball, but during the season it's all business.
Coming into Division I basketball, every player on the court was more or less the star of his high school team. Niesen believes the college game provides a whole new level of competition. As the leader of his Mission Viejo basketball team, it was normal for Niesen to average 20 points a game, it was expected. Recording the Orange County's best team record, finishing 26-3 with undefeated league play, earned Niesen two first team All-Orange County selections as well as first team All-Interscholastic Federation placement. He accumulated 1,805 career points and scored 44 points in a single game. Averaging 20.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game helped earn his three-time All-South Coast League selection and listed as one of the top-10 forwards in the West by Prep West Hoops.
Now playing on a college level, Niesen has learned to "leave everything out on the court," as he says.
"I go as hard as I can and give it my best so no matter what happens. If you miss every shot, if you don't box out every time, if you don't do certain things correct, you know that you're trying as hard as you possibly can."
Even when he is not playing as well as he would like, Niesen doesn't find time to get upset because he knows he's giving it his all. "Whatever happens, happens. I'm in a win, win situation."
This attitude has worked quite well for Niesen as he earned All-Tournament honors at the Cable Car Classic scoring 16 points with five rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes during the championship game against BYU. In the WCC opener against USF, Niesen registered his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds helping SCU to the win. He also started the season opener against Hawaii in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational and played a career-high 35 minutes, and assisted in the win at Montana State scoring 17 points.
Everyone knows he's left-handed and assumes he's always going left. Niesen hopes to improve his game by going right more often, taking what the defense gives him and working to hit his outside shots. Niesen joked around saying, "no one thinks I can go right but I'm telling you I can."
In discussing his leadership qualities, Davey believes Niesen "leads by his actions more then how vocal he is. He plays so hard."
Davey explained how you can see the other player's confidence in him growing. "They give him the ball in certain circumstances and they rely on him. I'd say he's been a very good leader for us."
As is the truth for many students, the future is not quite clear with opportunities seeming endless. Niesen has plenty of options after graduation as a political science major. He's open to the idea of grad school as he fluctuates between the thought of being a teacher/coach or going into law enforcement. Being active by nature, he knows he wants to stay out of an office environment.
Student athletes such as Travis Niesen generally grow up in an environment that encourages development toward success. These are the crucial stages of youth in which parents play an intricate role, assisting their children and helping them progress toward the bright futures they will soon obtain. When describing his parents, Jeffrey and Debbie, Niesen said, "they're really the best fans I could ever ask for, they're awesome." Neisen explained that although they can't make it to all the games, they come as often as possible and are very supportive of him.
Niesen will continue to take Santa Clara by storm, as he is only a sophomore. The next couple years will tell exactly what is to come from this strong, determined, and directed athlete.