BYU basketball alumnus Travis Hansen spoke to students at the Student Athlete Building on Nov. 30.
As a former professional basketball player and experienced entrepreneur, he came to advise students on how to find similar success in their post-college careers.
Hansen, a Utah County native, played for BYU from 2000-2003. He was known as “Elder 8 Mile” in his time at BYU for his bleached-blond hair.
Before BYU he played at Mountain View High School and Utah Valley State College, both in Orem. While at Utah Valley, Hansen’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and her last wish before passing away was that he go on a mission.
He ended up serving in Santiago, Chile – an experience he says richly blessed his life.
Upon his return, his father signed him up for a basketball tournament in Compton, California. He dunked and broke the backboard in a game and ended up in the hospital for several hours.
BYU coaches Dave Rose and Steve Cleveland caught wind of the highlight and offered Hansen a scholarship to play for BYU.
After his time at BYU, Hansen was drafted 37th overall in the NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks.
An opportunity came up to play for more money in Spain and Hansen went for it.
During his time on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, he played for Real Madrid with future NBA stars Luis Scola, Jose Calderon and Tiago Splitter.
Hansen then played in Russia for several years before retiring from basketball and returning to the United States.
Hansen used his experience playing overseas to teach current BYU athletes the importance of hard work.
“There’s always another level to working hard,” Hansen said. “Someone, somewhere else, is working harder than you.”
He mentioned how tough he thought the training regimen of BYU coach Heath Schroyer was, but said it paled in comparison to the three-a-day practices and conditioning required to play professionally.
He then encouraged students to find a mentor and make a plan for their future.
For Hansen, his mentor in the field of business was NuSkin founder Blake Roney, who helped the young, retired basketball player understand how starting a business could allow him to help others around the world.
While still playing in Russia, Hansen’s wife, LaRee, had the idea of looking for charity opportunities for the family.
“I know we’re not here just for basketball,” she said. “We can be an instrument in the Lord’s hands in Russia.”
After visiting orphanages in Russia, the couple went on to create the Little Heroes Foundation, now known as the Sunshine Heroes Foundation.
The group’s mission is to improve the lives of children around the world.
“We should always think about others, but especially when we’re having troubles,” Hansen said. “If you give a little crust of bread, you’ll get a loaf back.”
Hansen has seen the blessings of his generosity, having two of his four children after infertility problems as a couple, as well as success in the business world.
After learning from his mentor, Hansen started Tesani, a private equity firm that invests in and starts companies here in Utah Valley.
The business has made over $50 million in revenue to date.
Hansen explained after having a family and starting his business, his perspective on life changed, and he was able to expand his vision outside of just basketball.
He encouraged the students to come to the same realization by understanding their divine purpose in life and following the example of Jesus Christ as shown in the scriptures.
“Jesus taught 65 things, but two are the most important,” Hansen said. “Love God, and love thy neighbor.”
Hansen was recently called as a bishop in his LDS ward, and told the young student athletes that by following what Jesus taught, doing good and caring for others, they can change the world.
“Do good, work hard, and you can have it all,” Hansen said as his final message to the group of students.