He may be only 25 years old, but Travis Riesop has already spent time coaching in four different basketball programs. He’s a man who sounds ready for his biggest gig yet.
Whitnall High School has named Riesop, a freshman coach in the Falcons program last year, as the varsity boys hoops coach. He takes the place of Steve Kujawa, who stepped down following the winter season. The graduate of Slinger High School previously spent brief assistant’s stints at West Bend East and Fond du Lac, and he also got involved with the coaching staff at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh while he completed his teaching degree at the school.
“I’ve been around the game my whole life,” Riesop said. “My dad (former Slinger athletics director Doug Riesop) was a coach. Coach (Al) Scheive at Slinger, his son is my age and we were in the gym all the time, going to practices and in the driveway. After high school, I wasn’t good enough to play in college but I always knew I wanted to pursue some coaching. I got involved in the Oshkosh program and got to work with Pat Juckem there, and he’s a great mentor. He’s building something that’s great at Oshkosh, and he’s great to learn from.”
Riesop inherits one of the more intriguing openings in the area boys basketball landscape. Whitnall returns a boatload of seniors – 12 juniors were on the roster this past season – from a squad that went 16-7. At the top of the list, of course, is University of Wisconsin commit Tyler Herro, who already has 1,313 career points even after missing a chunk of his junior season with an injury.
After Whitnall reached the Division 2 state tournament in 2016, the Falcons were held short of the sectional in 2017. It’s not an ending that will be expected to happen again next season.
“One thing I told them yesterday in our meeting is that nobody owes them anything,” Riesop said May 6. “They really need to understand that it does take a ton of work to get to state. … Everybody else in the state is trying to make that same accomplishment. If we want to do that, we’re going to have to make some sacrifices, and we’re going to have to work extremely hard for that.”
Riesop said Herro will be playing with a chip on his shoulder after the injury sidelined him for the home stretch for the 2016-17 season.
“I’ve developed a great relationship with Tyler,” Riesop said. “He’s a special kid. He’s somebody that has major talent, but he works extremely hard. One of the best things about him is that he’s extremely level-headed. He wants to work. I think that speaks volumes of him. He wants to win and wants the best for the kids that he’s playing with. We have 10 seniors with him next year, so there’s a lot of kids who have been playing together for a really long time. The group in general is really special, and I think my relationship with him … he understands what I expect and I think he’s looking forward to taking that responsibility as a leader for his senior year. He always feels he has something to prove.”
After graduating from Oshkosh in 2014, Riesop worked with first-year coach Mark Ziebell at Fond du Lac.
“It was his first year trying to build back a program that was really successful and kind of took a dive; I learned a lot about what it takes to build a program there,” Riesop said.
Riesop was freshman coach at West Bend East last year before taking a physical education/health position and freshman coach position at Whitnall.
“I have unbelievable support staff," Riesop said. "One thing that I thought I had that was really good for the job is I got the trust of the kids at Whitnall. Being in the building, and being someone who is a little bit younger, they were able to come to me if they ever needed a little bit of support. I met with the guys (Friday) and set a few ground rules. I love that we have that relationship, but we know that once we get in the gym, we’re business. I’m here to get stuff done. They understand that, and I think they’re excited to have someone who’s going to come in and push them. I’m confident that I’m a person who’s going to do that.”