Florida Gators freshman guard Chris Chiozza knew about head coach Billy Donovan’s fiery attitude. It’s something the freshman liked about Donovan during the recruiting process.
However, a rotation error in practice brought out the fire quicker than Chiozza imagined.
“First couple of practices, he wasn’t too hard on me, so I was like, ‘Ah, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be,’” he said. “Then last week he just kind of exploded on me one time, like, oh man, I wasn’t ready for that. I was like, ‘Man, I thought I was doing good.’”
The freshman has spent the early part of the preseason making the adjustment from high school to college basketball. The guard has had to learn new concepts, leading to growing pains on defense. Chiozza was a half step late on a defensive rotation that led to the three-point attempt last week. Though the shot was missed, he still caught the ire of Donovan.
The change has been more difficult than Chiozza initially thought it would be, as he and fellow freshman Devin Robinson are learning what it takes to play at the next level. While the two have been watching a lot of game film and learning from coaching staff, Chiozza knows they are in a different place than the returning players on the team.
“Just the speed and physicality of the game,” he said. “You know, freshmen. They already have a few years of being in the weight room and already know how the speed is of the game, so we came in not knowing what to expect, just from what we saw like on TV and in person that’s just a lot different.”
Chiozza has also received help from sophomore Kasey Hill. As the two point guards on the team, the players have scrimmaged against each other throughout practices, staying on the court throughout the games. The opportunity to play against the older guard is providing a challenge Chiozza embraces.
“He’s getting me better everyday and he’s being a good leader, you know, showing me the ropes, really talking to me, helping me through the stuff that he went through last year, because we’re kind of similar smaller guards, and we don’t communicate a lot on the court, he’s helping me through that, so he’s really been a good role model for me so far.”
For head coach Billy Donovan, Chiozza and Robinson have been sustained intensity, something he looked at their ability to be able to do coming into practices. While Donovan said the players have a long way to go defensively, the coach said the players aren’t any further back than any other freshman that have entered the program.
While Chiozza works towards fulfilling the duties that are required of him on the Florida Gators mens’ basketball team, he is learning the coaching style of Donovan, as well as the most important thing to do while in practice.
“Got to run, every play, sprint,” Chiozza said. “If you stop sprinting, he’s going to make you run on the side, probably.”