Chiozza passing the test

Although he's growing – he's a legitimate 5-11 now and 165 pounds – Chris Chiozza still doesn't look like the guy buffet owners fear.

"I can win eating contests," Chiozza says. "I may not look like it, but I eat more than most big guys."

It's probably a good thing that Chiozza consumes his share of calories every day because he's such a high-energy player on the basketball court. It's that high level of energy that made him such a sought after recruit out of Memphis (TN) White Station where he was a constant threat to record a triple double – points, assists and steals.

"Don't forget about rebounds," Chiozza says. "I made double figures in rebounds a few times, too. I just follow the ball and use my speed. I think I jump higher than a lot of the big guys expect, too."

Speed is Chiozza's calling card. At White Station and on the AAU circuit, Chiozza was known for his ability to flip the switch and go from standing still to full speed in a matter of a couple of steps. On defense, Chiozza's speed makes him a nightmare in the full court press.

Once possession changes and the ball gets into Chiozza's hands, that's when the fun begins. For the most part, he's faster going from end to end dribbling the ball than 90% of the players can run the floor in a dead sprint.

That's the same calling card as rising sophomore Kasey Hill, who will take over as Florida's starting point guard in the fall.

"I think that's what Coach (Billy) Donovan likes about Kasey and me," Chiozza said. "We're probably two of the fastest guards in the country with the ball in our hands. I think Coach Donovan wants to go faster this year."

Even though he's grown an inch and added another 10 pounds since his high school season came to an end, Chiozza knows his first goal upon arrival on campus is to get in the weight room. He knows the players he will face in the SEC are bigger and stronger than the ones he faced on the high school and AAU circuits.

"I've got to get in the weight room and get bigger," Chiozza said. "This is a new game and I've got to get stronger if I'm going to be a contributor."

Chiozza expects the added strength will help him find more consistency with his jump shot. He's been somewhat streaky in the past, the kind of shooter who can hit five in a row just as easily as he can miss five straight.

He's already seeing some results from his work since March.

"I'm getting more elevation and I'm more consistent," Chiozza said. "I've always been streaky and that's gotta change."

Chris Chiozza

In high school and on the AAU circuit, Chiozza rarely had to rely on his jumper to get points. He scored regularly in transition but also showed the ability to get to the rim off the dribble in the half court.

He says that has plenty to do with growing up playing in the parks and playgrounds in Memphis where there is never a lack of competition.

"I've always played with older kids and grownups, guys who were always bigger than me," Chiozza said. "I had to find different ways to get my shot off in the paint. I had to learn to go up under them, get the ball under their arms and get it up off the backboard. And if they try to stop me, I can always dump it off."

Dumping it off is another Chiozza trademark. It was at the adidas Invitational in Indianapolis in the summer of 2013 that his recruiting stock rose significantly when he had a game where he scored 20 points and got the ball to teammates for 21 assists.

As a high school senior he averaged more than 10 assists per game.

"Give me the choice of scoring or making the pass for a teammate, it's the pass every time," Chiozza.

Like most of his high school and AAU teammates, he's leaving Memphis. Chiozza will miss his buddies, but he will miss his mama's cooking even more.

"If she's cooking, I'm eating it," Chiozza said. "Whatever she cooks is good, especially her chicken or her spaghetti. I'm really going to miss her cooking."

That means buffet owners in Gainesville should be on the alert.

Fightin Gators Top Stories