March 2, 2012
By Nick McWherter, MSU Athletic Communications
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Dreams, aspirations and goals are something that each and every high school athlete embraces while hoping to have the opportunity to play at the next level. Many kids in Michigan dream of donning the Spartan jersey and playing under the tutelage of head coach Tom Izzo. Senior forward Anthony Ianni was no different, and is now living his dream as if it were a screenplay, suiting up for the Michigan State Spartans.
Ianni was born a Spartan, truest to the cliché. His father Greg is Deputy Athletic Director and has been a member of the MSU Athletics department since 1993. Before that, he played baseball at Michigan State.
"It means everything to me," Ianni said of having the opportunity to play at Michigan State. "I am always going to bleed green forever, even when I went to Grand Valley for two years. I told (MSU play-by-play announcer) Will Tieman this story; they had the chant `Go Blue!' out there, and I could never do it. I never had the heart to do it, and I probably never will."
Ianni graduated from nearby Okemos High School and led them to league championship and also to the 2006 Class A state finals where they fell to Saginaw Arthur Hill in double-overtime, 85-84. Ianni then went to Grand Valley State to play basketball.
After two seasons, Ianni decided to pursue his options to transfer. Michigan State offered a walk-on spot and it was an opportunity that very few would pass up.
"I tell people that if is wasn't for basketball then I would have stayed out there because I love Grand Valley and made a lot of great relationships with people and still continue those relationships today," Ianni said. " I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to come back home and finish up and graduate from Michigan State.
"It is a place I have always wanted to play at. I didn't want to pass up that opportunity."
One thing that suited Ianni was the family atmosphere that Michigan State carries and the chance to return home and play in front all the people he is close with in the Breslin Center that he frequented growing up.
"It meant a lot (to get a chance to play at MSU)," Ianni said. "I get to play in front of (my family), that is something that when I was at Grand Valley I didn't get to do too much. It is nice to play in front of my family and my friends and it just means so much to me."
The jump from Division II basketball to the Big Ten Conference is sizable and Ianni knew that he would face challenges while making the transition.
"It was difficult, but at the same time I kind of knew what was going on, watching the practices at Michigan State and being around it, so I kind of knew what to expect," Ianni said. "Mike Vorkapich, our strength and conditioning coach did a heck of a job with me, getting me bigger and stronger. It was a huge transition, but I feel that I adjusted to it very quickly."
The perseverance and determination was critical for Ianni, and over the summer he was awarded a scholarship by the Spartan coaching staff, further solidifying his dream.
"Coach Izzo brought me in a couple days before school and said `I'm 99 percent sure you are going to be on scholarship.' When he told me that it really was a dream come true for me. I enjoyed every moment and I am still enjoying every moment of it," Ianni said. "This is my senior year and to be on scholarship just means so much to me.
"Ever since I was a kid growing up around here, I always wanted to play for Coach Izzo, and then to be on scholarship here, that was always my dream and my goal," Ianni said. "And to live it, it is awesome."
Ianni has one more chance to create memories that will last forever and he said that this senior class of Draymond Green, Austin Thornton, Brandon Wood and himself want to leave something significant at Michigan State.
"We want to leave here with a Big Ten championship, a Big Ten tournament title, and possibly a national championship," Ianni said. "We want to go out on top and that is how we want to leave our legacy this year as seniors."