O one day in the weight room, the basketball player of the Michigan State UniversityAnthony Ianni could no longer take criticism from his teammate, future NBA champion Draymond Green. Although Green conceived it as a good-humored joke about Ianni who needed some extra conditioning, Ianni took it seriously. Green said if Ianni couldn't stand a joke, he shouldn't be on the team. A scramble match ensues. This is when the team's strength and conditioning coach Mike Vorkapich explained to Green that Ianni is on the autism spectrum, which keeps him from being on the autism spectrum. to understand when someone is joking and when they are not. Ianni had hidden his autism from most of his teammates. He was initially upset by the Autism , Basketball and One Athlete 's Dreams, written with Rob Keast.
“A few days later, [Green] came back to me,” Ianni recalls. "He asked, 'Why didn't you tell me about it? I said I didn't know how he was going to react. So often people in my life have discovered me and treated me differently. He looked at me and said: ". " Sign-in-gate ">
In the book, Ianni looks back on his childhood autism diagnosis and a prognosis that he would finish high school but not beable to play sports or go to college, and should live in a group home when he grows up. Instead, he continued to play at the highest level of college basketball, alongside and against future NBA stars, with the Spartans from 2009 to 2012. He sees similarities between his journey to the NBA. Michigan State and the story football of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger at Notre-Dame. Today, Ianni is a husband and father of two who met his wife, Kelly, at a fortuitous time during his college days. Her six-year-old son is starting to take an interest in the NBA and enjoys hearing about the unexpected family bond with Green.
"[Green] and I make sure always keep in touch to find out how our families are doing, how our children are doing, "says Ianni. " It's not just Draymond who I am in contact with, [but] all my teammates that I had. One thing I learned is that Michigan State is a family, it really is: the same guys in the locker room for three, four years, we fight like family would, let's joke like a family would.
It is this feeling of inclusion that Ianni has sought since his childhood. He writes about tough times as a boy, with classmates downright intimidating him and one claiming to be his friend before setting him up for humiliation. Part of the bullying was due to his autism - his classmates laughed at him for things like the continuous repetition of the Three Stooges lines - and part was due to his height (he eventually reached 6'9 inches).
Today, when he meets young people as a motivational speaker, he talks about his experiences.bullying: "The biggest goal is to let the students know, to show them that they are not alone… you know what it is, you are there for them.
As he explains: "I show people, tell people it was hard for me, but at the end of the day I was like a much stronger individual. "
Ianni thanks his parents, Greg and Jamie; sister Allison; teachers and coaches for helping him through the tough times Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo has been a long time presence in his life Ianni's father - a longtime Michigan State Sports Department employee who has retired as deputy director of sports - introduced his son to the famous Spartans coach when the youngest Ianni was a child.
As a child, Ianni unwittingly took Izzo 's seat on the team bus.trainer chatted with his seatmate during the ride to a workout, then gently made the youngster atone by helping the team at the gym. Ianni grabbed the rebounds and sent them back to the players, reinforcing his early love for the state of Michigan and his desire to someday play basketball.
From Izzo, Ianni says: " I have probably learned more from this man's life than many other coaches I have had in my life - you treat people with respect, how you want to be treated, wherever you go. "
Ianni played for an Okemos high school team that competed in a tournament race of State in depth, but when it came time for college, his first stop was the
"I was officially here, officially part of the state Michigan basketball program, ”Ianni recalls the day he walked into the locker room and saw his jersey. “The coach awarded me a full scholarship. I went to my car… I immediately started to cry.
At Michigan State, Iann I became captain of the Boy Scout team and played hard with the starters in practice, which, according to him, has prepared them well for the challenges of the regular season and beyond. During their senior season with Green in 2011-12, the team met with US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama when the Spartans launched their program aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson.
That season, Green was the best player in the Big Ten conference and the team won the Big Ten tournament. The Spartans reached the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament, but lost against Louisville. However, Ianni left a lasting legacy on the program - including what happened after his unexpected meeting with Green.
"My teammates have asked more and more questions about what autism is, "says Ianni." The coaching staff asked what autism is. They wanted to know more. They wanted to know more. were probably going to end up talking to someone with autism on the road again who is a little different [than me]. There are differences within the autism spectrum. I am very successful. Maybe [ they will meet] someone with poor or average functioning. "
As he explains, his coaches and teammates wanted to knowhow autism "impacts my life." They wanted to be educated ... They weren't sure what autism was when they first found out they were going to hang out with an autistic teammate.
Today, in addition to being a motivational speaker and author, Ianni also trains children with autism in the very game he was playing. He runs a summer basketball camp for autistic youth.
In the book he writes that individual sports such as running or swimming are often recommended for children with autism. He encourages their parents to consider team sports as well.
"I'm a big fan of it," says Ianni. “People with autism want one thing in life: to be friends with someone. You can be a sports buddy… be a part of a basketball, softball, baseball, soccer, hockey team, whatever it is."
As he reflects from his own life experience," It was not just teammates that I was able to be with, but a bond of 'friendship that I will have forever. "