MILWAUKEE — Jamie DeMatthew has never been one to shy away from competition.
In fact, the more intense the competition, the more engaged he becomes. That was vividly illustrated during his stellar career as a boys basketball player for St. Catherine’s High School.
As a starting point guard, DeMatthew guided the Angels to back-to-back WIAA state championships, the last coming in 2006. In his two years as a starter, the Angels compiled a gaudy 53-1 record.
His coach at the time, Bob Letsch, clearly recalls the competitiveness DeMatthew exhibited.
“Jamie was a competitor, oh yeah,’’ Letsch said. “He competed; he always competed, even in practice.
“He worked hard. His teammates respected him for that, and I really respected him. He got after it.’’
Now, just over a decade later, DeMatthew is still getting after it. It’s just not on a basketball court, although his line of work involves basketball. DeMatthew, now 29, is the senior account sales executive for the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association.
As his title denotes, DeMatthew now competes in the world of sales, selling tickets for Bucks games at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee. It’s a challenging job, one where he is constantly hustling for a sale.
DeMatthew sells all types of tickets for the Bucks: full-season packages, group plans, and tickets for the franchise’s upscale suites. However, his primary focus is group sales for youth basketball players and being in charge for setting up high school games in conjunction with the Bucks at the BC.
The principles he gleaned while playing basketball at St. Catherine’s and then at Lawrence University in Appleton, where he was either a starter or top reserve, are now being put to use in his sales job.
“I had really good players around me at St. Catherine’s and Lawrence,’’ DeMatthew said. “Some of my backups in high school could have probably started at any other school in the city.
“And in college, I was playing with guys who were all-conference or all-state players who you had to keep at bay. All of us were going for the same thing: playing time.
“It’s sort of the same thing in sales. You always have someone coming for your spot. It’s competitive thing. You always have to push yourself to get better and better. You’re being judged against yourself. If you’re not going to push yourself, you’re not going to have much success.’’
‘Oh, wow’ moment
The competitiveness of sales while working for a professional basketball organization is, DeMatthew says, a dream situation. It certainly wasn’t an expectation of his upon graduation from Lawrence University, where he earned a degree in history.
DeMatthew’s first job was being an assistant to then St. Catherine’s athletic director Chuck Wood. Then, he became the youth and adult sports director at the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie.
It was at that time DeMatthew decided to pursue a master’s degree in sports management from Cardinal Stritch University. He then sent out résumés to various sports organizations and, much to his delight, got a response from the Bucks.
When it appeared DeMatthew was the person the Bucks wanted to hire as a group account executive, he had one final interview — with then-Bucks owner and U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl.
DeMatthew was understandably nervous.
“It was probably about a 10-, 15-minute interview,’’ DeMatthew said. “He just asked about me and my family, my story. He just wanted to get to know me as a person, which was pretty cool.
“But I was very intimidated. It was sort of surreal. It was the first time during the whole interview process that it felt unreal, that I had an ‘Oh, wow’ moment.’’
A well-known friend
Kohl wouldn’t be the only well-known public figure DeMatthew would encounter in his new job. After finding a place to live in St. Francis, just south of where the Bucks used to train at the Cousins Center, DeMatthew discovered one of his neighbors was Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ superstar in the making.
Antetokounmpo was the Bucks’ No. 1 draft pick in the 2013 NBA draft after playing in relative obscurity in Greece. When he joined the Bucks, his parents and family remained overseas. What’s more, he still didn’t have a driver’s license.
It wasn’t long before Antetokounmpo’s newest friend would be DeMatthew.
“In his rookie year, there were multiple times we would ride to games (at the Bradley Center) together, so I got to know him a little bit,’’ DeMatthew said. “When I first met him, you could tell he was hungry and wanted to be great.
“I think what you see of him out there on the court is pretty much what you get of him off it.’’
Antetokoumpo, who’ll be participating in his second straight NBA All-Star Game on Sunday in Los Angeles, has spearheaded a resurgence in Bucks’ basketball.
The Bucks made the Eastern Conference playoffs last season and are poised for a repeat appearance this season.
“It’s an exciting time,’’ DeMatthew said. “It’s sort of reminiscent, I feel, like the early 2000s when the Bucks had the big three with Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell.
“You’re seeing more fans at the game now and everyone is wearing Bucks gear. You can feel the vibes. We’re a fun team to watch and it’ll be exciting to see what’s next for them and see how far they can go in the playoffs.’’
And if the Bucks show the competitive drive DeMatthew has, it just might be a long way.