There isn't much at Michigan State guaranteed for redshirt sophomore Jack Hoiberg. Starting, or even finding playing time in general, are just some examples.
Well, that's the life of a walk-on. But when given the chance to leave East Lansing to go play for his father, Jack Hoiberg decided against family.
Or did he?
“We talked about it. He kind of just left it up to me. He was like, ‘You can come if you want, but I know you love it there,'" Jack Hoiberg said during the men’s basketball team’s annual media day at the Breslin Center Oct. 15. "I do love it here. I love the family atmosphere, everything that Michigan State is about. I feel like I've been growing here every year and I've built something, and I didn’t just want to leave that and just see where my opportunity goes from here.”
So even though Jack Hoiberg decided to not play for his father, in his eyes, he is still playing for family — only an extended version of it.
His father, Fred Hoiberg, was an up-and-coming, bright coaching mind after five successful seasons at his alma mater, Iowa State. The Cyclones played in four NCAA Tournaments, advancing as far as the Sweet 16 in 2013. Following the 2015-16 season, Fred Hoiberg took the head coaching job with the Chicago Bulls, where he played four years during his NBA career.
But after 24 games into his fourth season, he was fired last December. In late March, Fred Hoiberg was announced as the new head man at Nebraska.
“It's a great opportunity for him," Jack Hoiberg said of his father. "I wasn’t sure if he was going to try to get another shot in the NBA or go back to college or take a year off. Honestly, it was a little quicker than I thought of him taking a job. But, I'm really excited for him. I think it's a great opportunity.”
Jack wasn't excited enough to immediately jump ship from the Spartan basketball program. Head Coach Tom Izzo gave him the option, but the 5-foot-11, 175-pound guard turned the opportunity down.
"He has respect from all of the guys," Izzo said. "You look at Jack and say, ‘This kid has really gotten better each year.’ Had a chance to go with his dad and wanted to stay here. I'm hoping it's because of me, I’m thinking it could be his girlfriend, I don’t know which one. Either way, I’m excited to have him back because he is somebody that everybody on this team likes.”
Though Izzo might think some outside factors played into him sticking around, Jack Hoiberg jokingly ensured it was the "family thing" at MSU that led to his stay.
He appeared in 14 games last season, and he averaged 0.7 points and 0.2 assists per game while also being named a co-recipient of the Tim Bograkos Walk-On Award. Izzo said he has been one of MSU’s "best defensive point guards and has improved his shooting."
That sounds like major progress from a player who had to sit out an entire season two years ago.
After all of that growth, Jack Hoiberg wasn't ready to start from the bottom again at Nebraska.
“I feel like I was never kind of in the middle," he said. "I was always here in Michigan State, like this is what I was going to do unless something drastic changed. Obviously, my dad’s coaching at Nebraska, but I've built on something over the past couple of years, and I didn’t really just want to leave it. I love it here at Michigan State, and I want to see where things go here.”
The Spartans travel to Lincoln on Feb. 20 for the teams’ only meeting this season. Jack Hoiberg says he doesn't know exactly how he will feel when that day comes.
He's never been in a situation like this before.
"There's going to be a lot of emotions going through my head that day," Jack Hoiberg said. "This will be a first for me. Seeing him on the other sideline is definitely going to be weird. I'm sure it's going to be weird for him, too. I guess we’ll just have to see when it comes.”
If Jack Hoiberg manages to get on the Pinnacle Bank Arena court that night, that generally will bode well for MSU.
Which leads into the most important question: Will he "chirp" Fred Hoiberg from across the sideline?
“Depends on the score. Depends on the score, depends on how things are going," Jack Hoiberg laughed. "We’ll have to see on that one.”