Coming out of high school, he was the top player in the State of Minnesota. In this past offseason, a high profile coaching change brought a new direction and attitude to the team, leaving him uncertain about the future. After sitting out for a season, this Mounds View High School graduate and current Minnesota Gopher started the season with high hopes and unreached potential.
No, this article is not about Golden Gopher starting quarterback Adam Weber. However, sophomore guard Travis Busch’s background mirrors that of Weber’s, almost to an eerie point. The two grew up playing high school basketball together, and although briefly separated, have found themselves battling for the same colors once again.
Starting in middle school, Weber and Busch have been acquaintances, but found themselves united their freshman year in basketball.
“We didn’t become really good friends until we played basketball together in high school during our freshman year,” Weber said. “I just always would guard him at practice and we ended up really comfortable with each other and it went from there.”
The duo’s paths began to cross as they excelled at their respective sports with Weber in football and Busch in basketball. One thing that remains overlooked when discussing the two can be the fact that Weber actually lettered in basketball more than his counterpart Busch, with four letters to his three. But as Travis described Weber, this should not come as a shock.
“In high school, he even started as a freshman right away, and he was very successful all through high school,” Busch noted. “Pressure doesn’t really get to him....he’s a competitor.”
As high school continued, both athletes started to compile impressive resums, with Busch earning all-state honors his junior and senior seasons, and ultimately being named Minnesota Mr. Basketball, the top honor in the state after his senior season. Weber was outstanding as well, with three all-state honors and finishing as a finalist for Mr. Minnesota Football. According to Weber, the accolades and everything that went with them only helped the two get closer.
“We would always talk about the similarities we had (in high school), since we were both in the same situation and being recruited,” Weber said. “We really can relate well with each other since we’ve both been through the same process.”
After high school, the two went their respective ways, with Busch heading to Cal Poly on a full scholarship and Weber coming to Minnesota the following year. Unfortunately for Busch, his freshman season was marred by injuries and a homesickness that ultimately brought him back. This didn’t stop Weber from keeping in touch with Busch and even visiting him over spring break.
While at Cal Poly, Busch suffered a season ending foot injury in the fourth game of the year that effectively put his basketball plans on hold and game him a chance to realize what he really wanted.
“The first school that offered me a scholarship and showed interest was Cal Poly,” Busch said. “I felt loyal to the coach and figured I’d head out there, give it a try and see what it was like. It was a good opportunity to get out there, but it was too far away from home, so that’s what brought me back.
“I really wanted to play in front of my family and friends. Plus, when you grow up in Minnesota, this is where you want to play. It’s amazing to practice in here everyday and play in Williams Arena. It’s awesome. It’s a dream come true. Looking back, it’s worked out really well because we have a new coach and a lot of things have changed for the better.”
However, due to NCAA transfer rules, Busch was forced to sit out the past season, continuing the layoff between games until this season. In fact, until Busch made his debut in maroon and gold November 10th against Army, he had not participated in a regular season game in 712 days, almost two full years. As he explained, sitting out is never easy as an athlete.
“It was tough,” Busch admitted. “My first year at Cal Poly, I was hurt and had to redshirt that year so I was kind of used to it, but it was tough. You want to help the team but you can’t. I went from being an important part of a team in high school to that. You really have to work your way back up in college when you’re a redshirt and all you can do is practice. It’s tough doing that, doing all the work and not getting any of the benefits,” Busch said.
While Travis was sitting out his transfer season, Weber was redshirting his freshman season. Neither were active players on a Minnesota roster in 2006, but both have experienced program changing decisions affecting their athletic destinies. This past offseason, both of their respective sports saw coaching changes two weeks after the seasons were over, bringing Coach Tim Brewster to football and Coach Tubby Smith to basketball. With Tubby, came a renewed passion for Busch.
“When I heard the news, I was like wow, I can’t believe that I’ll be playing for a legend,” Busch said. “When we met coach I was kind of star struck, it was a great experience. Meeting him, you could just tell how strong of a person he is, and how excited he was to be a Gopher.
“I look forward to winning. Playing for Coach (Smith) means you don’t want to disappoint him. I don’t want to come to a practice after a loss so hopefully we can keep winning. He demands a lot from you but you want to give that to him because you respect him a lot and don’t want to let him down so I think that works out really well.”
As Travis comes into the season unsure of where things will fit, he can rely on Weber to offer words of encouragement, with similar experience coming into this past season.
“There’s definitely a bond there from our sports,” Weber said. “We can help each other out and talk. Our lives with sports have been so similar that it just makes it easy to put ourselves in the others’ shoes. When I’m having a tough time, he’s there to pick me up.”
As Adam experienced his first season as Minnesota’s starting quarterback, his contact with Travis remained strong, with Busch attending as many games as possible and encouraging Weber.
“(Travis) was getting ready for his season but he would make to as many games as he could or at least watch them. We would talk about what happened that week and he’d give me input,” Weber said. “I hold his opinion very strong as an athlete at this level, because he knows what’s going on. I’ve always thought of Travis as a hard worker and one of those guys who goes all out.”
Despite this past football season being a rough one for Gopher fans, Travis has found a silver lining that he hopes will help him this season, saying, “(Adam) had a really good year, but they only won one game and that’s really tough. But I just look at him and how positive he stayed so I can draw something from him it would be to stay positive. They went through some a lot of down times but he kept his head up and kept battling.”
For Weber, this past season brought a record-breaking performance that will go down as the best passing season in Gopher history. As for Busch, a slow start from a nagging thigh injury has hindered his comeback. But drawing on lessons from his friend, Busch knows to keep his head up.
“It’s a long season and you never know what can happen. I’m injured now but roles change and people progress and strange things happen so I just have to be ready for my opportunity.”
story by Ben Flattum, athletic communications student assistant