A Michigan State Senior’s Love Affair With The Underdogs Of Spartan Basketball

Jan 24, 2020

MSU senior Jack Waynick has made the Izzone a big part of his life. Little did he know he would find kindred hoops spirits on the MSU basketball team.

I have secret, yet beautiful, friendships, ones that start magically just like in the movies. I am an MSU senior, class of 2020, and I am starting to reflect on the things that matter.

And you need to know about my friendships. First of all, I am a bit of a hardcore fan of MSU men’s basketball. If you show up to the Breslin Center an absurd amount of time before the game actually starts, there will be a group of lunatics -including me - waiting at the Izzone gates in the bitter cold. I wait in line for these games for several hours, and yes, I have been called insane by many people. I do this, and have been doing this for four seasons now, all to get that coveted front row spot.

Jack with MSU sophomore guard Jack Hoiberg
Credit Jack Waynick

If you watch a MSU basketball home game on TV, you will be able to see me sitting right at half court, in the first row - seat 12 to be exact.

Why do I want that front row? So that I can scream things to everyone involved in the game, and they can hear me.

One day, there was one person specifically who heard me.

The players were going through their usual warm up routine in the early stages of the 2018-19 season. The forwards were shooting lay-ups and the guards were on the floor stretching. And one Jack Hoiberg, a reserve on a deep bench, was the closest guard to the Izzone that day.

We had like 80 minutes until tip-off, and I had been at this for probably six hours at this point, so I was looking for a way to entertain myself. Due to my superior intellect, I made the connection that Hoiberg had the same first name that I do, Jack, and that this fact would be absolutely hilarious to mention. So while the players were stretching, Hoiberg heard a voice call out to him.

“JACK! JACK! JACK!”

Hoiberg then turned his head and looked at me, which is more than most basketball players do, and I said the greatest friend pick-up line in human history; “My name is also Jack, let’s be friends!”

Hoiberg nodded in my direction, and after the game, which MSU probably won by 50, I Tweeted at @JackHoiberg, and he followed me back, which basically secured my spot in Spartan history and as his best friend.

Jack (bottom left) cheering on the Spartans as a member of the Izzone.
Credit Jack Waynick

From that point forward, after we became Twitter best friends. Every time MSU was playing in a blowout game and there were two minutes left, I would stare down Coach Tom Izzo. I would yell for him to put Hoiberg in the game. And whenever Hoiberg arrived to the scorer’s table to check in, I would cheer obnoxiously loud and jump in the air as if MSU just won the national championship.

At the Izzone campout this year, which was a non-campout in the Breslin Center because of allegedly bad weather (whatever), the Izzone members met the players and took pictures with them to make their non-Spartan friends jealous.

When it was time to meet the players, there was one guy who immediately went up to Hoiberg - and that would be me.  When Hoiberg saw me, we started talking for a little bit, and my personal all-time favorite Hoiberg quote was said, “I see you on Twitter, you have some great stuff on there.”

Now quick question, has Hoiberg ever complimented your Tweets? Because he has complimented mine. Basically, what I’m getting at is what started out as a joke in the Breslin turned into a legitimate thing that Hoiberg and I have going on.

Hoiberg recently had the greatest game of his career against Western Michigan, going off for six assists in just 13 minutes played, talk about efficiency. I am so glad I taught him my secret trick to passing.

Credit Jack Waynick

You know I love Hoiberg, but I have added another favorite this season. He’s also known for a famous last name, thanks to a dad known in basketball, but I respect him for who he is.

Steven Izzo.

Stop laughing.

Seriously, Hoiberg and not-the-coach Izzo are my two favorite players in my time at MSU. Izzo is a local kid who went to Lansing Catholic and is a walk-on. And it is always nice to see the local kids make the team. So do I have a personal story with not-the-coach Izzo, like the one for Hoiberg?

Yes, yes I do. One day, Izzo was checking in to play against Binghamton, and being that we were playing Binghamton and he was checking in, you can assume what the score was like. I figured I would use my comedic abilities to entertain everyone, so while he was sitting there, I call his name, and he looks back at me. I then proceed to tell him to dunk on No. 15 of Binghamton for me. Izzo laughed, quite loud actually, and then checked in. I know I was demanding that a 5-foot-8 reserve guard, who is the son of the head coach, dunk on a 6-11 center. I have high standards.

After the game’s conclusion, when the players come around and high-five the fans, I was very disappointed in Izzo, and I let him know about it. How could Izzo do that to me? He assures me that he’ll dunk on someone the next game…so guess what I said to him as he was checking in to the very next game and guess what he didn’t do?

After we defeated whatever school we played that day by probably 60 points, not-the-coach Izzo went to post on Instagram, I took to the comment section like every rational sports fan and informed him of my disappointment for not dunking on whatever player I said that day.

Izzo followed me back on Instagram, and went to my most recent post at the time and commented “legend."  Has Izzo ever called you a legend? Because I know one person he has.

He regularly likes my Instagram posts, and on the day of the Duke game, I posted on my Instagram story at five in the morning that I was awake and preparing to get in line for the game. He messaged me saying “good” - it’s good to know that Izzo appreciates my effort.

MSU freshman guard Steven Izzo reaching out to slap hands with MSU junior forward Xavier Tillman.
Credit Jack Waynick

Alongside in this journey, a virtually every game, are the two friends who have sat next to me: Nico Mancini and Eric Frey. If you watch a game, you will see the three of us all in a row, next to each other with our own very creative things to say to players.

Make it a tradition we most certainly did, you can bet that every time not-the-coach Izzo goes to check in, we will inform him of who to dunk on.

In reality, even though I make fun of all of this, I really do love Hoiberg and Izzo.

I am one who really appreciates the college basketball walk-ons. These guys practice, work very hard and get no praise. You’ve ever heard, “Championships are won in practice”, or similar, then you know the players on the scout team are just as important.

I truly appreciate the work that Hoiberg and Izzo put in, and that’s why I cheer so hard for them.

It’s just a bonus that social media has made us best friends.

Right guys?