Point guard Chris Chiozza emerges as hot name on the recruiting trail

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FORT WAYNE, In. — Part of the reason the NCAA re-instituted the April live evaluation weekends was for college coaches to get a better grasp on the upcoming recruiting classes that they’ll evaluate extensively in the summer. The live evaluation weekends are also of great benefit to prospective recruits that have greatly improved since the previous summer or the end of the high school season and one such player that took full advantage was Memphis native Chris Chiozza.

A 5-10 point guard that has already drawn some comparison to Missouri point guard Phil Pressey, Chiozza is electric with the ball in his hands, pushing tempo at breakneck speeds while displaying tight ball-handling ability and a toughness seldom seen in smaller guards. With AAU and White Station High School teammate Leron Black nursing an ankle injury during much of the two evaluation weekends, Chiozza continued to lead his AAU team, Team Thad, to tremendous success and college coaches have begun to notice. Chiozza is currently regarded as the No. 90 overall player in the 2014 class according to Rivals.

“The spring has been great, my recruitment really picked up and I’m helping my team every weekend even though we’ve been shorthanded without Leron Black,” Chiozza told NBC Sports. “College coaches have been noticing my play and it’s a good feeling for them to recognize that I can play at any level.”

Chiozza claimed scholarship offers from Florida, Butler, Ohio State, Murray State, Memphis, USC, Ole Miss, Auburn, Richmond and UMass and he also said that Kansas has regularly been in touch, although the Jayhawks have yet to offer.

Hometown Memphis has offered Chiozza a scholarship, but the point guard seems torn on staying home or going away for school.

“I have a good relationship with Coach Pastner. They offered (a scholarship) and staying in my hometown is something I’ve been wanting to do since I was little,” Chiozza said. “But as I got older I started thinking about if it would be best for me to stay or would going away be best for me. I’ve been (in Memphis) my whole life, so I want to stay, but I kind of want to get out and see other parts (of the country).”

Chiozza will have a decision to make whether to represent the hometown Tigers or go away for school, but he already has a few things in mind when selecting a future school and he also has a few programs that are turning up the heat in his recruitment.

“The style of play of course (is important to me); an uptempo, defensive and athletic team and I have to have a good relationship with the coaches,” Chiozza said. “I’ve been developing good relationships with many of the coaches every day. Florida, USC and Butler, those coaches have been talking to me and calling me and asking me how my day was and talking to me about anything really.”

While the comparisons to Phil Pressey are strong, Chiozza has attempted to model his game after a few guards he admires the most.

“I used to try to emulate after Allen Iverson, but I figured I wouldn’t be that predominate of a scorer so I found more guys that I could play like, guys like Chris Paul, Steve Nash, or (Rajon) Rondo,” Chiozza said.

Scott also writes for NY2LA Sports and can be followed on Twitter @sphillipshoops

No. 7 South Carolina upends No. 3 Baylor to advance to the Elite 8

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NEW YORK — It was with a whipping and a whimper that Baylor’s season can to an end on Friday night.

The final two minutes of the game wasn’t actually a game. No. 7 seed South Carolina dished out a 70-50 beatdown that wasn’t in doubt after the Gamecocks used an 18-0 run at the end of the first half to turn a rock fight into statement, and for the final two minutes of the game, the Gamecocks and, eventually, Baylor dribbled out the remaining seconds before joining arms at center court for a postgame prater.

It’s the third straight year that Baylor has been bounced from the NCAA tournament by a team seeded lower than them. In 2015, it was R.J. Hunter’s heroics that knocked his dad off of a stool and sent No. 14 seed Georgia State into the second round of the tournament. In 2016, the Bears fell in the first round to No. 12 seed Yale, prompting one of the most memorable press conference moments in NCAA tournament history.

And on Friday night, it was South Carolina that sent the Bears into offseason hibernation.

It was a disheartening end to a season, a loss that will surely provide fodder for the people that traffic in ‘Scott Drew can’t coach’ jokes, the irony being that the 2016-17 season was definitive proof that Scott Drew is almost certainly better at his job than you are at yours.

“When you coach for a while and you make Elite Eights and Sweet 16, you kind of start taking it for granted that you will always be successful in March,” Drew said. “But it’s a good reminder to be here and know how hard it is.”

No. 1 North Carolina handles No. 4 Butler en route to Elite Eight

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North Carolina, the top seed in the South Region, led by as many as 20 en route to a 92-80 win over No. 4 Butler in the Sweet 16 matchup on Friday night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.

The Tar Heels were led by 26 points, off 8-of-13 shooting, from junior point guard Joel Berry II. The 6-foot floor general had been hampered by an ankle injury through the first weekend. While he still seemed to favor that same ankle at times, his play was a big improvement on his 3-of-21 shooting through the NCAA Tournament’s first two rounds. Justin Jackson nearly matched Berry’s game-high with 24 points.

Andrew Chrabascz, in the final game of his four-year career at Butler, finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

North Carolina, the last of the ACC’s nine tournament bids, advances to the Elite Eight to face the winner of No. 3 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky. The Wildcats own a win over North Carolina, defeating the Tar Heels, 103-100, on Dec. 17 behind 47 points from Malik Monk.

Missouri lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

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Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.

Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.

The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.

When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.

Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.

Oklahoma State promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

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Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.

The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.

 

Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

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Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.