Story at a glance

  • Former Michigan State University basketball player Anthony Ianni was the first Division I college basketball player to openly identify himself as being on the autism spectrum.
  • Ianni wrote a memoir about his experience called, “Centered: Autism, Basketball, and One Athlete’s Dreams.”
  • Now a Michigan State graduate, Ianni — who is a husband and father of two — works as a motivational speaker.

Former Michigan State University basketball player Anthony Ianni has taken his experience overcoming adversity as the first Division I college basketball player to openly identify himself as being on the autism spectrum and turned it into a memoir.

In “Centered: Autism, Basketball, and One Athlete’s Dreams,” written alongside Rob Keast, Ianni recalls how his childhood diagnosis forged his path. Upon learning he had autism, Ianni experienced bullying and was told he’d likely be unable to finish high school or play sports at all.

“They don't know me. They don't know what I'm capable of," Ianni wrote. 

Instead, Ianni played basketball at Okemos High School, where he graduated and initially played Division II basketball at Grand Valley State.


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


Ianni eventually transferred to Michigan State where he played for its Division I team and found the sense of camaraderie and friendship he’d once searched for.

During his 2011-12 senior season, Michigan State won the Big Ten tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament before losing to Louisville.

“My teammates asked more and more questions about what autism is,” Ianni told The Guardian. “The coaching staff asked what autism is. They wanted to know more.

Now a Michigan State graduate, Ianni — who is a husband and father of two — works as a motivational speaker, detailing his challenges and accomplishments.

“I show people, tell people it was tough for me,” Ianni said, “but at the end of the day, I was like a much stronger individual.”


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

LOUISIANA PARENTS SUE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN DEATH OF TEENAGE AUTISTIC SON

CONGRESS, THIS AUTISTIC CITIZEN IMPLORES YOU TO PASS THE MENTAL HEALTH JUSTICE ACT

MY HOPES FOR THE AUTISM SPECTRUM COMMUNITY IN 2021

AUTISTIC INDIVIDUALS MAY HAVE A HARD TIME WEARING A FACE MASK. HERE’S HOW EXPERTS HELP.

Published on Nov 24, 2021