As graduation nears, Izzo family reflects on Raquel's time at MSU
Men's basketball coach Tom Izzo not only has the opportunity to coach young men on the court, but also witness his senior basketball players graduate, an emotional moment for both coach and players every year on Senior Day.
This year’s graduating class includes his senior players: Alvin Ellis III, Eron Harris and Matt Van Dyk, and his own daughter, Raquel Izzo — making this graduation a little more special for the Izzo family.
Time at MSU
In the beginning of her high school years, Raquel didn't even know if she wanted to attend MSU, because her dad was at the university and it was close to home. She said she wanted to be her own person and didn't know if coming to MSU was a way to fulfill that.
"I kind of wanted to be my own person in a way, and so I thought," Raquel said. "Having conversations with friends who had come here, they said you can make it as close to home or as far away from home as you really want, and that really opened my eyes to that cause I didn't really ever think about it like that before."
Raquel credits her friends to playing a big role in her decision to attend MSU. She said she can't imagine attending any other school now or even think about attending any school not named MSU.
"It was so nice to just come home and have my mom take care of me and be around her and my brother's games, my dad's games, so I definitely feel like if I didn't come here I would've missed out on all of that," she said.
Raquel will have spent four years at MSU with a major in advertising and a concentration in media management. She worked in the Men's Basketball Office all four years she attended MSU and was also active in her sorority, Chi Omega.
She was an avid attendee of basketball and football games. She attended majority of her dad's games and always sat with her basketball office co-workers.
Raquel said she is excited about graduation next week. She said a lot of her friends are graduating, too.
Still, she is sad and not quite ready to leave MSU.
"In a way, I'm also really sad because I'm not ready to leave college and the experiences that I've had here at State," she said. "I'm sad that that part of my life is ending, but excited for the new chapter that's starting, but sad to see this part end.”
Dad as head coach
Being the daughter of the men's basketball head coach isn't easy. It has had an impact on Raquel's life, but in a positive way and she said it has helped shaped who she is today.
"We talked a lot on whether she wanted to go to school here and be at a school where your dad's the coach, and I'm sure there's more pressure on that then I even realize … but I think she's handled it incredibly well," Tom said. "I don't think it was easy all the time to be the coach's daughter."
Raquel said she felt she had to grow up really fast, but in a beneficial way. Because she was always around older people and around people in general, maturing at a young age was something she had to do.
"I felt like I was almost an older soul, that's what people call me ‘an old soul,’” Raquel said. “I was always around people, so I feel like that help shaped my outgoing personality, I love talking to people."
Her father's position ensured Raquel had to meet high-profile people. She said being around so many different groups since she was young has molded her and has added to the presence she has with people today.
Tom said his position of head coach might have had an impact on his daughter, but in a more positive way than a negative one.
"College is college, there's a lot of great things and a there's lot of bad things," Tom said. "When you constantly are working with this age group, I get to learn things from my own players that I get to share with my own kids. … So I think more of it was good than bad, but I'm sure there was times where she probably said to herself, 'Man, I wish I was somewhere else besides here.’"
Raquel has distinct memories of her dad and herself watching games, even non-MSU games. This was a way of bonding between Raquel and her dad — staying up all night watching games.
"He would always come home late, and I would always want to stay up for him and you know, say hi to him before I went to bed, so sometimes he would let me stay up with him and watch some late night games," she said.
Her parents, Tom and Lupe, said they are both happy about her upcoming accomplishment and emotional as Raquel ends this chapter of her life.
"We think about it, as it gets closer all the time," Lupe said. "It's kind of emotional how fast time flies. You know, it seems like it was just yesterday that she was born and now she's graduating college."
Lupe said she remembers when her daughter was just a child running around and now her "Rocky" — Raquel's nickname — is all grown up.
"I'm very happy about the accomplishment, but also emotional about the fact that she's all grown up and moving on in her life,” Lupe said.
The Izzo family has attended many graduations, including that of their senior players and relatives, but this one will be different.
"When I think about her coming in with some guys that are now going out, they're part of my family, of course she's a big part of my family, so it's hard to believe that it all happened so quick," Tom said.
Watching how emotional Tom is during Senior Day or even after a heartbreaking loss, Raquel said her dad is a "big softy" and a lot of people don't really know that side of him.
"Definitely as he's gotten older, he's gotten softer," she said. “I think he'll probably cry because he's kind of a crier, but I think it'll be a full circle for him, too."
Tom said there will be a million emotions when he watches Raquel walk across the stage next Friday.
Throughout many graduations at MSU and different colleges, Tom has never missed a player's ceremony.
"Sometimes on Saturdays, I'm at three different graduations, you know, or Friday nights … and this year it's going to be my daughter in one of them," Tom said. "When I lose a player I feel a little sad, a little excited, but a little sad. I'm sure when it's my daughter it's going to be a little bit tougher, to be honest."
After graduation, Raquel is staying near MSU. She recently accepted a job at Spartan Fund, where she will be working as a professional aid.
"I'll still be able to go to basketball games, football games and I'll still be around my family, so I'm not going anywhere, which my parents are happy about," she said.
Raquel will be graduating May 5 at the Breslin Center. She will be earning a bachelor's degree from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.
She will continue onto the next phase of her life, but will still be involved in the MSU community, her family and of course, her father's basketball games.