Florida's basketball program received its first commitment for the class of 2014 on Tuesday night when (Memphis) White Station point guard Chris Chiozza announced his commitment to the Gators at his high school.
And now is the time to analyze what it all means.
First and foremost, Chiozza, one of the players who has done the most to boost his stock this spring, will probably move into the top 50 of most recruiting rankings in the near future, and is a big get for the Gators: He is a Memphis player with a Memphis offer, and those players have tended to stick with the hometown Tigers since the days of John Calipari. His commitment goes down as another impressive pull for Billy Donovan, who has been one of college basketball's best recruiters for the entirety of his Florida tenure — and that's without considering how well Chiozza appears to fit Florida's system.
Sure, Chiozza is listed variously at 5'9", 5'10", and 5'11", and all three of those heights might be a little generous. But Florida has had success with smart waterbugs at point guard from Jason Williams to Teddy Dupay to Brett Nelson to Taurean Green to Erving Walker, and Chiozza's quickness and persistence on defense makes him a player more in the Peyton Siva or Russ Smith mold than a Walker-style player.
Chiozza is also a pass-first point guard with significant skills as a scorer, which is Donovan's ideal for the position: Walker was always a square peg of sorts as a scoring floor general, and Florida's offense has never run better than when Green or the similarly pass-happy Scottie Wilbekin have been at the controls. Chiozza also fits in perfectly to Florida's future plans: If Kasey Hill, perhaps the prototypical pass-first point guard for Donovan's system, leaps to the NBA after his freshman season, then Chiozza has the chopse to slide in as a freshman starter; if not, he can be an exceptional backup at the position.
And then there's what Chiozza's commitment signals to the rest of the 2014 class: It's already suspected that having Chiozza in the fold will aid with fellow Memphis prospect Leron Black, and Chiozza and Black would make a foundation on par with any in 2014 save North Carolina's tremendous twosome of Joel Berry and Justin Jackson.
Florida will need to take a big class in 2014 by virtue of its four-man graduating class alone, and will have room at every position except for shooting guard (where Michael Frazier II, Eli Carter, and Dillon Graham present a bit of a logjam). If Black joins Chiozza, it's an indication that Florida — which has to prepare for an incredible worst-case scenario in which the four departing seniors (Casey Prather, Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, and Patric Young) are joined by four early entrants to the 2014 NBA Draft (Hill, Chris Walker, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Damontre Harris) — is ready to reload with another class, and has its core. The message will be clear: Florida is determined not to be down, and can give any elite player a chance to play college basketball on an elite level.
Whether Florida's pitch will be persuasive enough to follow up its excellent two-person 2013 class of Hill and Walker will remain to be seen, of course, but with three straight Elite Eights, a slew of alumni having NBA success from Joakim Noah to Bradley Beal, and a renovation of the aging O'Connell Center into a gleaming basketball facility in sight, that pitch is as persuasive as it has ever been.
And with the still-in-his-40s Donovan's 2013-14 Gators poised to possibly improve on the Elite Eights of its predecessors, adding a third ring to his hand — which would elevate him to second among active coaches, behind only Mike Krzyzewski, who won his third title at 54 — that pitch might get even better.
Chiozza, likely to be a four-year player because of his stature, knows he's hitching his star to a program that has built its foundation faster than nearly any other powerhouse in college basketball history. He might be instrumental in pouring a few more pillars.