While attending John Glenn High School in Bay City, Michigan, Jenae Lodewyk was president of the student council; head of the thespian club; and participated in forensic speaking competitions. Growing up she also ran track, played soccer and volleyball, and did pompon. One sport she never played was basketball. Which is ironic, given that her life now revolves around hoops.
Given all her accomplishments, when it came time to select a college, the ball was in Lodewyk’s court. She chose to attend Wayne State University in large part for its diverse student body and opportunities to get involved in Detroit, which she did in spades.
“I was taking classes, I had an internship, I was working for the Red Wings as Red Patrol and I was also in a few student organizations,” said Lodewyk. “I would do all that in a day and then, at night, I would come home after the library and Google internship opportunities. My sophomore year, I found the Pistons had a human resources summer internship, and I applied for it at three in the morning. A few days later, the Sport and Entertainment Business Association announced that the head of human resources for the Detroit Pistons was coming to campus to speak. I was a member of that club as well, so when I heard that was happening, I knew I just needed to shake her hand.”
After her internship the night of the talk, Lodewyk rushed to campus and caught Nicolet Lewis, chief people person with the Pistons, as she was walking to her car outside the Mike Ilitch School of Business. Lodewyk landed the internship, and Lewis is now one of her mentors.
Her hustle continued throughout that internship. At the end of her junior year, the Pistons approached Lodewyk about a job as equipment coordinator. Four months later, the team approached her about becoming assistant equipment manager, which included preparing practice gear, uniform rotation, overseeing movement of equipment at home and on the road, and managing the locker rooms at the Pistons’ practice facility and Little Caesars Arena.
It was a big decision, as the job would require long hours and traveling with the team — all while taking classes.
“I said yes, and we kicked off the season,” said Lodewyk. “Homework on the plane, quizzes during laundry cycles, emailing professors in different time zones. The time zones were the real kicker for me. But yeah, what a crazy senior year.”
Not only did she become the youngest assistant equipment manager in the NBA, but Lodewyk was also only the third female to hold the position.
“I have always said, from my time at Wayne State, that when I walk into a room, I don’t care if I am the smartest or the richest, the tallest, the strongest, but I will be the hardest-working person.”
That attitude was appreciated by a Pistons organization whose “Bad Boys” and “Goin’ to Work” teams were celebrated for getting their hands dirty and getting the job done. So much so that upon Lodewyk’s graduation in August 2022, the team offered her the newly created position of player and family engagement coordinator, which just so happened to be exactly what she wanted to do with her career.
In her current position, Lodewyk has several key responsibilities. One is helping with off-court player development, which includes setting up learning experiences in areas such as financial literacy and introducing them to community engagement.
She also helps create a family environment for players and their families, a critical need for young men who have often moved to Michigan from a different state or even another country. Last month, the Pistons traveled to Paris for a game against the Chicago Bulls. During the trip, Lodewyk organized activities for players, families and staff, such as classes about making macaroons and the perfumes of Paris, as well as private shopping excursions to provide experiences outside of playing basketball.
“I didn’t sleep at all, but it was just awesome; what a cool experience,” said Lodewyk.
Lodewyk’s quick rise was foreshadowed by her back-to-back wins in 2019 and 2020 in the Mike Ilitch School of Business Elevator Pitch Competition. And now, she is part of a new university billboard campaign that celebrates the success many recent Wayne State graduates have found in the workforce.
“I am a very proud Wayne State Warrior,” said Lodewyk. “Seeing the billboard and everything that has come of it, it's been cool. My roommates and friends and I have piled into the car and driven the interstate trying to find it, and I get a text every few days saying ‘I saw it.’ ”