Tuesday, June 25, 2024

<p>Spartan fans celebrating a made three-pointer by their team during a game against Ohio State University at the Breslin Student Event Center on Feb. 25, 2024.</p>

Senior section leaders reflect on Izzone community, say 'bittersweet' goodbyes as season ends

Justin Babbitt has been a fan of Michigan State basketball since he was five years old.

Born and raised a Spartan fan, the secondary education senior said it felt "natural" to him when he became an Izzone student section leader two years ago.

"I think there's been so many moments, just from my childhood and me growing up, where I basically watched every single game that happened at Breslin, and it was just the coolest thing ever," Babbitt said. "So I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I have to be a part of this and be as involved as I possibly can.'"

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The Izzone, Michigan State’s basketball student section, is an integral part of the university’s athletics program. However, the sense of community created among students wouldn’t be possible without those who lead it — the senior section leaders.

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Kinesiology senior Jasper Najar, an Izzone member before taking on his leadership position two years ago, said consistency is what makes the student section so unique.

"So many places have good basketball culture or good fans that don't always show up, you know," Najar said. "Even if they're having a down year or something like that, but with this, I was just like every year, every game it is packed out, it is loud. And, like, people never really give up on it."

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Journalism senior Reese Carlson first saw the Izzone when she was about 12 years old, coming to a game with her dad. From that point on, it became her favorite place. 

"It was getting pretty wild in there, and I was like, 'These people look like they are having the time of their lives,'" Carlson said. "I was like, 'I need to be there.'"

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Being a section leader comes with big responsibilities, Carlson said. On game days, the leaders arrive two and a half hours before tip-off. They set up the seats with newspapers and newsletters while taking different shifts to scan Izzone students into the Breslin Center. During the game, the section leaders guide the student section in the traditions.   

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"You're just kind of leading different cheers. You're kind of more of an example for people during the game," Carlson said. "So, I always make sure I'm doing all the little dances, all the little cheers, so everyone just knows what they’re doing."

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Babbitt said while every year in the Izzone brought about different experiences, his freshman year during the COVID-19 pandemic presented its own set of challenges.

"I do think there was an entire year or two of people not being familiar with the Izzone and having to learn, and there was a little bit of a learning curve," Babbitt said. "I think it took people like myself and other older people who were a little bit more familiar with MSU basketball to help them readjust."

Najar said that realizing his time in the Izzone was coming to a close was "bittersweet," but looking back on his favorite memories made saying goodbye a little easier.

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"I mean, you can't get any better than 700 career wins for Tom Izzo, home win against Michigan, senior year," Najar said.

For Carlson, being a section leader had a "huge impact" on her time at MSU.

"I really found my community," Carlson said. "I really found something fun to do, and I love being able to pour in all the extra work as well. Being a part of the Izzone is just really important to me."

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