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VOL. 133 | NO. 105 | Friday, May 25, 2018

Chiozza, Players With Local Connection Workout for Grizzlies

Pete Wickham, Special to The Daily News

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There was a time four years ago when Chris Chiozza’s dream was to stay home and play his college ball at FedExForum.

“That didn’t happen,” said the former Bartlett and White Station High point guard, who went on to a solid career at the University of Florida.

But one of the beauties of life is that there are second chances, and Chiozza was given the opportunity to make his case to the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday, May 24, during a pre-draft workout at the team’s practice facility.

He was one of a half-dozen guards and wing players brought in by the Grizzlies, who were focusing on players who might be available June 21 when they pick 32nd overall in Round 2.

There was even more local flavor beyond Chiozza, a second-team All-SEC selection who averaged 11.1 points and 6.1 assists a game last year. Munford High alum Jonathan Stark, the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year at Murray State this past season, was also put through his paces. A 6-footer like Chiozza, Stark averaged 21.4 points a game leading the Racers to an NCAA Tournament bid. He played his first two years at Tulane.

“We always have a priority on giving local guys a look, and opening them up to this process,” said Grizzlies’ general manager Chris Wallace, who had Memphian Nick King in for a workout earlier this month. “Jonathan has put up some spectacular numbers in terms of production at Murray State, and Chris has been terrific for Florida throughout his career. He’s great in the open court, has tremendous quickness and is a terrific leader.”

On getting the opportunity to showcase for the Grizzlies, Chiozza said, “It means the world to me. I wanted to stay home and go to college. But to have that possibility at the next level would be a great blessing, a tremendous opportunity to be near my family.”

Wherever he might land, Chiozza said he wants “a team that values a true point guard, not worried about scoring but winning and doing everything I can to bring energy off the bench.”

Chiozza, who recently received his bachelor’s degree in telecommunications, worked out for the Washington Wizards on May 22. He said he’s learning to adapt to the rigors of this routine.

“You try to prepare, but you’re not sure exactly what to expect so you get in the best shape you can,” he said. “You know it’s going to be a lot of running. They’ll push you to see how far you can go. They’ll try and make you tap out, but it’s all about being tough and showing what you can do when you’re winded.”

He doesn’t have another workout scheduled until next week in Charlotte, “so I can go home, see family and eat some good cooking.”

In moderation. “No, I’m eating everything I see,” he said with a grin.

Also working out for the Grizzlies Thursday was All-SEC pick Admiral Schofield, a burly 6-5, 240-pound guard from Tennessee, who said he will decide by next week if he will stay in this year’s draft or go back to the Vols for his senior year. Others working out included 6-4 Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie, who showed well at the recent NBA combine in Chicago, 6-5 Justin Bibbs of Virginia Tech and 6-6 Braian Angola of Florida State.

“We’ve had good success recently with picks in the second round and this draft offers lots of possibilities at 32,” Wallace said. The Grizzlies’ first pick will be fourth overall. “In fact, the 32nd pick this year will likely be better than the 20th pick next year.”

When asked if the front office discussed possibly trying to trade up from No. 4, he said, “that would take significant assets and you have to determine if that’s prudent. But honestly, I’m happy where we are. We know we’ll get a great player.”

The Grizzlies war room will be one down with the announcement that Ed Stefanski is leaving the club for a three-year deal with the Detroit Pistons as a special adviser. He is charged with reorganizing the basketball operations office after the Pistons parted ways with former president and head coach Stan Van Gundy.

“Ed is well respected in the league and among basketball people,” Wallace said of Stefanski, who has been a general manager in Philadelphia and New Jersey. “He did a great job for us and we’re thrilled he got this opportunity. But for us the draft process moves on and in time we’ll see what we want to do in terms of the front office.”

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