Sometimes, an event will live up to its name. And the 2012 Best Buy Chicago Classic did exactly that, producing previously unknown rising junior Chris Chiozza into the national spotlight.
Despite a lack of height that still persists, Chiozza impressed us as a speed demon with stupendous fullcourt jets. He sported a list largely composed of mid-major programs at that time, but that changed quickly. Within a month after Chicago, he picked up serious interest from Missouri, VCU, UMass, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, Tennessee and other major programs.
His initial set of performances enabled him to carve out a game defined by court generalship. He said this to Scout.com's Brian Snow during the 2012 summer: "I'm not much of a scorer, I'm a playmaker. Playing defense, getting steals, coming down and distributing the ball to my teammates for easy dunks and wide open shots."
He visited Oxford and Columbia during his junior season and for a time aligned himself closely with the Tigers. But by early spring Florida had begun to get involved, and the situation snowballed.
Despite picking up offers from Tennessee, USC, Ohio State, UConn, Memphis, Auburn, Butler and others, Chiozza pledged to the Gators this past May. His commitment gave Florida another backcourt blue-chipper and a valuable insurance policy in case freshman Kasey Hill opts for the NBA draft following the 2013-14 campaign.
It starts with that speed. Chiozza is among the fastest guards in the class, and that could make him a terror on both ends of the court for Florida. He's a great fit for the Gators' style because of his ability to push tempo offensively along with covering expansive distances on defense.
Billy Donovan has enjoyed success with other smaller guards, including Erving Walker and Anthony Roberson. The latter shares similarities with Chiozza, who has become far more of a scorer over the past 15 months.
He remains a talented playmaker as well. Chiozza penetrates the lane effectively and is a heady, if not dazzling passer. He understands that the point guard must run the offense and essentially manage the defense, and for that reason he's likely to play a key overall role for the Gators.
His jump shot also has improved markedly. No longer only a threat off the bounce, Chiozza has demonstrated at multiple venues that he's a dangerous three-point marksman who must be treated with respect from deep. That perimeter potency has transformed him into a complete threat as a scorer and playmaker.
On defense, he shows good anticipation for steals and frequently is able to get under his opponents' dribble.
Basketball is a big man's game. And not to put too fine a point on it, but Chiozza isn't big. He's a little guy both in stature (5-10) and strength, and scouts can't afford to overlook his physical dimensions and the hurdles they typically create at the high Division I level.
In fact, you could put Chiozza in a 15-under game and he wouldn't appear out of place. He does sometimes look out of place against the power guards he'll face in the SEC, and for that reason he may not rank as highly as his speed and skill level suggest he should.
While fans, coaches and scouts must be careful not to underestimate the importance of size and strength, they must avoid overestimating them as well. As mentioned at the top, Florida and many other programs have achieved great success with smaller guards.
Having quickness and speed counts for a lot. Being able to smoothly knock down threes also counts for a lot. Add in capable playmaking and aggressive defensive moments, and you could be talking about a multi-year starter for an elite program. Chiozza's size questions actually pose less risk for college than they do the professional ranks, and even at the NBA level there are some shorter guards who enjoy very long and prosperous careers.
Chiozza's bid to start immediately likely will hinge on his ability to gain weight and, most of all, what Hill opts to do in the spring.