Memphis, a hotbed for prep blue-chip talent, is traditionally a challenging place to recruit for schools other than the University of Memphis, but last summer the Gators snagged the area’s top 2014 high school point guard Chris Chiozza.
The 5-10, 160-pound standout from White Station High chose Florida over the hometown Tigers — a rarity according to recent history.
Memphis often keep’s the city’s best players, most notably NBA all-star Penny Hardaway but also Joe Jackson, the team’s leading scorer this season.
Chiozza, a highly-touted floor general and possibly UF’s point guard of the future, is one of just a handful of top players to leave the city, joining Tennessee double-double machine Jarnell Stokes.
“If you look at a lucrative talent-based pool of a city, Memphis has got as much talent as anybody in the country,” UF coach Billy Donovan said.
“It’s a great city for basketball. … It’s always really hard to come into this city when [the University of] Memphis really wants a player here.”
The Gators started their four seniors — guard Scottie Wilbekin, swingman Casey Prather, forward Will Yeguete and center Patric Young — and sophomore Michael Frazier for the 16th consecutive game.
Together, Florida’s consistent starting five has lost just once in 29 games this season.
The South Regional semifinals were a star-studded affair, as several prominent alumni from Florida, UCLA, Stanford and Dayton were in attendance Thursday night.
Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was in the house, as were Cardinal alums Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, and cornerback Richard Sherman of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.
Alabama head coach Anthony Grant, a former guard at Dayton and assistant coach at Florida, cheered on both the Flyers and Gators.
In a random sighting, Marshall Henderson, Mississippi’s mercurial senior shooting guard, also attended the Sweet 16, rooting for the Gators while wearing a blue Florida T-shirt.
This and that• UF’s fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance is the longest active streak in the country.
• Young and Wilbekin played in their 15th career NCAA Tournament game Thursday; tying former Gators guard Lee Humphrey and forward Chris Richards for the most in school history.
• Wilbekin, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, was named a third-team National Association of Basketball Coaches All-American. UF’s point guard is the first Gators player to be named to the NABC All-American teams since Al Horford and Joakim Noah both earned second-team honors in 2007.