SIOUX CITY, IOWA (KCAU)- Growing up, many kids have the dreams of playing professional sports with one Sioux City North alum turning those dreams into reality for her talents off the court rather than on them.

The game of basketball has been an essential part of Brittni Donaldson’s life. The Sioux City native has been involved in the sport ever since a young age and followed in the footsteps of her father, Jeff, who was a star at Briar Cliff. Jeff played for the Chargers from 1983-1987, where he scored over 1,000 career points and his 459 career assists is the second-highest mark in program history.

But, his biggest assist may have been putting the ball in Brittni’s hands.

“He was a huge influence. I think we really bonded over the sport. It was never something that felt like it was forced upon me to have to play or have to be interested in. He coached me a lot of my life. So, he was a huge influence. One of my biggest teachers of the game,” Brittni said.

Brittni went on to win a state title with North in 2009 then played four seasons at UNI. During her Panthers career she went through four knee operations, forcing her to miss time on the court. But at the same time, providing Brittni with both a new perspective and a new opportunity.

“There’s so much that goes on to make the organization successful to make everyday work. So, there’s such a wide range of opportunities in sports and that’s what I try to say to youth who are interested in working in sports is like you don’t have to want to be a player or a coach there’s so many opportunities,” Donaldson added.

With all of these experiences, Brittni realized that there are many layers to the game of basketball, even more so than putting the ball through the hoop.

“To be able to continue to work in the sport at a high level has been a complete blessing and I’m so grateful,” Donaldson added.

Donaldson took those opportunities and made the most of them, taking a job in data analytics in Chicago before moving on to work for the Toronto Raptors where she started as a data analyst before moving up to an assistant coaching and Director of Coaching Analytics role. The move made Brittni the first female assistant coach in franchise history while becoming the youngest active assistant coach at the time.

“My first reaction to the news was just calling my dad and sharing that moment with him. It was really special,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson’s journey to NBA coaching was a unique one and it certainly was not an easy path. But, it’s one she felt stemmed from her love of basketball that started here in Siouxland.

“I think Sioux City is really unique and that it really invests in sports and athletics for youth and for everybody in the area. So, I had that exposure and those opportunities at a young age that I’m now realizing not everybody has. So, it had a huge influence on me. I feel very fortunate that I grew up in the Siouxland area,” Donaldson exemplified.

Now, Brittni is an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons. But since Donaldson’s tenure with the Raptors, more women have earned roles on the benches of their respective franchises…giving the next generation a trail to embark on.

“Just follow your passion. Whatever you’re passionate about, really attack that with conviction and confidence and understand that you belong and that you matter and that you are whatever you want to be. Don’t let anybody get in your way. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t,” Donaldson emphasized.

IMAGE COURTESY: DETROIT PISTONS