Former Florida standouts Koulechov, Chiozza pursuing pro dreams

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Florida's Egor Koulechov (4) hopes to continue his career in the pros. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

There are different paths to make it on an NBA roster, many options to play professional basketball.

Former Florida forward Egor Koulechov and point guard Chris Chiozza are longshots to get picked in Thursday night’s NBA draft. But both players intend to make money playing basketball somewhere next season. The situation is more uncertain for former Florida center John Egbunu, who is still dealing with knee issues that have sidelined him for more than a year and a half.

Florida has not had a player taken in the NBA draft since 2013, when forward Erik Murphy went in the second round (49th overall) to the Chicago Bulls. But that hasn’t stopped two UF players from landing on NBA rosters since. Former UF forward Dorian Finney-Smith made the Dallas Mavericks roster as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and has played two NBA seasons. Last year, former UF forward Devin Robinson landed a two-way G League contract with the Washington Wizards and appeared in one game with the Wizards as a rookie in 2017-18.

Finney-Smith and Robinson both made strong impressions in NBA summer league games. Koulechov and Chiozza will likely get a chance to latch on to summer league rosters if they aren’t drafted Thursday night. The 6-foot-5 Koulechov, who was second on UF in scoring at 13.8 points per game while shooting 39.5 percent from 3-point range, said he’s worked out for three NBA teams.

“It’s all up in the air right now,” Koulechov said. “I’ve had a couple of good workouts, trying to show teams what I’m good at. Still trying to look for that team or that G League contact, that two-way contract.”

Koulechov said he’s enjoyed the workout process and has gotten mixed feedback.

“I think I showcased myself well, as someone with good character, a good locker room guy,” Koulechov said. “On the court, I showed I have NBA range as a shooter and that I can improve, just need to get quicker defensively, my lateral quickness, you need to show that to be a 3-and-D(efense) guy.”

Chiozza, a Memphis native, finished his career as UF’s all-time leader in assists (571) while earning All-SEC first team and defensive honors as a senior. Listed at 6-feet, Chiozza does not fit the mold of an NBA-sized point guard in a league where the majority of starting point guards are 6-3 or taller. Chiozza has been invited to a handful of NBA workouts as well, including one from his hometown Grizzlies.

“It was worse in college with people underestimating my height,” Chiozza told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I feel like the NBA guys saw what I did in college and don’t hold it against me.”

Chiozza and Koulechov could both make a living playing basketball overseas as well, joining a growing list of former Gators playing in Europe, Asia and other continents. Koulechov, who was born in Russia and raised in Israel, has dual citizenship, which increases his options in landing on an overseas roster.

“They (NBA teams) know my situation, that I have dual citizenship, that I can play overseas,” Koulechov said.

Koulechov said he’s kept in touch with Chiozza through the predraft process.

“We’ve been talking,” Koulechov said. “Just trying to encourage each other, hoping that each of us get in a good situation.”

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