By the time Travis was ready for high school, Bob and Vicki decided to hold him out for a year, at least partly so he could physically mature. As is often the case in small towns, there were people in Fond du Lac who were upset by this, and in a neighborhood spitting match that somehow found its way into the local newspaper, Bob and Vicki (and Dick and Sara, who also held Drake out) found themselves cast as the worst kind of sports parents.
"I think, more so in a small town, you get jealousies like that," Travis muses. "You have to deal with it your whole life. I think if there was one thing in the world I could eliminate, it'd be jealousy, because there's no good that can come from it for anyone."
"If you'd have told us up front that it was going to be this kind of a hassle," says Bob, "we might have done something differently."
Playing for his Uncle Dick, Travis blossomed in high school, leading the Cardinals to a 22--2 record in his senior year. That same year Drake became the second-leading national high school free throw shooter of all time (making 96.3% ), while Travis shot 80% from the line. The Cardinals were impossible to beat with a lead in the last few minutes of a game. "We had a free throw competition at the end of every practice," Dick Diener recalls. "Travis and Drake would go back and forth, [one of them winning] every day."
There was talk that Travis would go to Wisconsin, but the Badgers' slowdown style under then coach Dick Bennett never interested him. "I have all the respect in the world for Dick Bennett," Travis says, "but I didn't think I'd fit. I wanted to go up and down [the court] more." So he signed with Marquette, and with Crean, a former assistant at Michigan State, whose up-tempo team had won the 2000 national title. In 2001, like his grandmother before him, Travis Diener left Fond du Lac on the road to Milwaukee.
He was there a week when he called home one night. His parents asked him to call back in two minutes. When he did, his mother was crying.
There had been problems for a while with Danny, Bob's son from his first marriage. He drank too much, and he got into cocaine, and everybody in town seemed to know it. He lived with June for a couple of years and then moved into a house on Sheboygan Street, next door to Peg Lautenschlager.
For a while Danny had seemed to be turning the corner. He'd gone into a rehabilitation clinic for 60 days, and he'd been clean since he got out. But an engagement had been broken off, and a couple of friends invited him to go to a Monday night football game in Green Bay, and there had been some beers and then, apparently, a lot of cocaine. Out her window Peg Lautenschlager saw the red lights of the police car in front of the house next door. They brought Danny out on a stretcher. He'd overdosed, fatally, sometime during the night.
"He was a great guy," says Tom Diener. "That's why there were so many people crying at his funeral."
Tom Crean brought nearly the entire Marquette basketball program, right down to the office staff, up to Danny's wake. When Travis returned to school afterward, the team enfolded him. He grew very close to Wade, whose talents were exploding. The two roomed together on the road. Travis also discovered that his teammates gravitated toward him for leadership, and that helped him too. After all, it is in the Optimist's Creed that you should "make all your friends feel that there is something in them."