By Mark Jurgena
Many local viewers will be watching 2008 Collinsville High School graduate Michelle Bartsch-Hackley and her teammates as they go for the gold in women’s volleyball at the Tokyo Olympic Games. But she will not be the only Kahok alumnus to be part of the Olympic spectacle. 2013 CHS grad Travis Dunnette will be behind the scenes and on the sidelines for USA Basketball as the men’s and women’s teams, along with the women’s 3-on-3 team, take on the best in the world.
Dunnette works at USA Basketball and serves as the organizations Coordinator for Apparel and Equipment. He left yesterday (July 19th) for Japan .
At USAB, he is in charge of the apparel for all events from the Olympics to kids clinics, working closely with the Nike Corporation during the ordering process, inventories shipments, and distributes apparel, shoes, etc. to each team prior to a competition. He also works with various shipping companies to get all apparel to the right place at the right time.
“I just do all the behind the scenes work,” he said. “I’m the guy making things happen behind the scenes with all the equipment and apparel…the shipping and logistics…really just getting everyone else prepared so they can succeed at USA Basketball.”
This job is much, much more than the once every four years Olympic Games so many tune in to see.
USAB is involved with a great deal of events. This year the Under-16 team is headed to the Americas tournament and on July 11th the Under-19 team beat France 83-81 to win the World Cup in Greece. Dunnette has been an integral part of these events and more.
“We really have a lot going on,” he said. “I have my hand in a lot of different pots at times. But I just try to keep organized and make sure every single event is treated to the same gold standard that we strive for in all that we do.”
In addition to all of the logistical work he now works on site at events including with the athletes directly. He helps with their apparel and equipment, but also such things as rebounding and passing to the players during practice or shoot arounds.
“At an event like this, I’m right up there with them,” he said. “They may be asking, ‘hey, this doesn’t fit, I need a different size.’ But at practice I’m out there rebounding for them, getting them towels, water, making sure the laundry is done for the next day. I’m definitely in the line of fire and kind of rubbing shoulders with those guys every day which is pretty cool. But just as my job, I’m not trying to become friends with them. I’m here to do a job and make sure they have what they need to compete at the highest level.
“I’m just thankful. When I have long nights at the office, I just think, ‘hey, this is pretty cool.’”
While his part in the Olympic games and beyond is definitely unique, it’s not his only experience that so many people would also define as “cool.”
His job at USA Basketball came about courtesy of his post-graduate internship with the NCAA. He worked directly with JoAn Scott, the Managing Director of Men’s Basketball Operations for the NCAA. During that time, Dunnette worked daily on the planning and operations for the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
“So basically all year round, we planned, did the operations, and the logistics for March Madness,” he said. “It was really cool to see it come together from that side because I had been a part of the tournament my last two years at Miami (Fla.) as a team that made the tournament.”
Dunnette served as a student manager during those tournament years and spent three years total as a manager for the Hurricanes under legendary coach Jim Larranaga.
“Going to college I didn’t know I wanted to manage or how to even start that process,” he said. “I was in a class that I needed to volunteer for and I volunteered at coach Larranaga’s basketball camp. I got to know the staff through that and asked, ‘hey who are these other guys running around with towels on their shoulders with water bottles? How can I become more involved with the team?’ They asked me to come back and do an interview and I became a manager.”
While working with the team he was able to observe and learn from Larranaga, a 37-year Division I
“He’s calm under pressure,” Dunnette explained. “He gets the guys to buy into what we all need to do and work together as a team to meet a common goal. Just going to work everyday and seeing him and his staff go to work was really awesome. I definitely attribute a lot of where I am today to coach L as well.”
Dunnette is actually from south Florida and moved to the Collinsville area when he was ten years old.
“I didn’t know what to expect from the midwest but I can definitely say after living there, I’m a midwest kid at heart,” he said. “I loved my time in Collinsville and the town atmosphere. Obviously I went to a basketball school. I grew up on basketball. My Dad was a basketball coach. He’s won a couple of state titles with girls basketball at the 8th grade level. I followed my Dad around to practice, so coming to a basketball community like Collinsville was really awesome!
“Running out of the locker room with the stands full of people in purple, just knowing the history…the 2,000th win… I got to be a part of that my junior year. I was on the team that got the 2,000th win and our picture’s up in the gym right now! I wasn’t a great player, I came off the bench and just contributed in small ways. Get a rebound down the stretch or just support my teammates and cheer them on. I definitely was not one of the best, but just being part of the team and that rich history of Collinsville basketball was awesome.”
While his post-Collinsville journey has seen him work at some of the world’s greatest events, he remains humble and thankful for the many people who helped him along his journey so far.
“There’s been a lot of people who’ve played a part in where I’m at today,” he said. “My Mom and Dad (Brian and Laurie Dunnette), my family has just pushed me to chase my dream and do what I’m passionate about. They were always in my corner when I wanted to major in sports. They’ve always supported me. Even today (July 18th) when I was at our women’s game (against Nigeria) they’re always looking for me on TV and sending me pictures, ‘hey there’s you!’ They’re always in my corner and pushing me to be better at all times.”
He also credited current Collinsville coaches Darin Lee and Eric Anderson for “getting me on my basketball journey.”
While his job is rarely acknowledged in the world of athletics, Dunnette clearly loves what he does. So much so that he offered the following advice for anyone wanting to work in athletics once their playing days are over.
“Just follow your passion,” he said. “Growing up I knew I loved sports. I loved watching sports, I loved playing sports and I wanted to find something I would enjoy and work in sports but I didn’t really know how…I just knew I had a passion for it even though other people told me I shouldn’t. I would probably be making a whole lot more money doing something else, but I just knew I had a passion for sports. But honestly if they have a passion for something just go after it.”