Dupay on Chiozza, relief efforts in Puerto Rico

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Has Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza hit a wall?

I posted that question to former Gator standout point guard Teddy Dupay on my latest Gator Hoops podcast.

The 6-foot, 175 pound Chiozza entered February having scored double figures in 12 of prior 14 games and was considered an SEC player of the year candidate. But in four February games, Chiozza has scored in double figures just once, averaging 6.0 ppg while shooting just 28.9 percent from the field (10-35) and 11.1 percent from 3-point range (1-9). Chiozza has remained steady with the ball, though his turnovers have been up slightly, having turned the ball over 4 times against LSU while posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 18 to 7 over his last four games. Chiozza is coming off his worst shooting night of the season, going 2 for 14 from the floor in UF’s 72-69 overtime loss against Georgia.

Like Chiozza, Dupay was a smaller (5-11) slightly built point guard with speed and dynamic playmaking ability. Dupay played three seasons at UF (1998-2001), helping lead Florida to the 2000 NCAA Finals.

“It’s mental and it’s physical,” Dupay said on the podcast. “Certainly you take a beating. (Strength coach) Preston (Greene) does really good job, he’s got it fine tuned, how he train the guys in the offseason, how they build up strength. We almost always peak at the end of the season so a lot of credit goes to him.

“Chris is playing a lot of minutes. He’s having to play minutes when he’s not playing well. And I think that’s the newest mental challenge for him. In the past when he was playing well, we let it ride, we got some triple doubles off the bench, he did amazing things and when he wasn’t playing well which not everyone plays well all the time, he was able to go take a seat and someone else was able to come in there and help the Gators win. This year he is learning how to deal with having to be on the court, having to continue to make plays, continue to stay positive, continue to keep the things moving right for everybody else even when he’s not playing his best and that’s a very difficult thing to do whether it’s your first year, your fourth year your 15th year in the NBA, to be able to keep the ship driving straight when you are not playing well. That’s why the point guard position is so hard and that’s something you don’t see in the stat sheet.”

Dupay said he’s confident that Chiozza will turn things around. A Memphis native, Chiozza will begin a stretch of playing two straight games in his home state on Saturday at Vanderbilt.

“Chris is going to pull it out,” Dupay said. “He’s done a great job. He’s been really patient. I think he played his role for three years and he’s playing his role this year. And I’m really, really confident in that position. Of all the positions on the team, Chris is a guy I know we can count on.”

At Friday’s Florida UF media availability, Florida coach Mike White said his message to Chiozza is to get back to being, “A grimy guy, a guy who has earned the headlines that he’s gotten. But, we can’t read the headlines and have it change us. He can’t worry about shots and scoring. He’s got to lead us. He’s got to lead by example, He’s got to talk a little bit more, which he actually did last game. He was as vocal against Georgia as he’s been and we need that moving forward of course. He’s got to be an elite defender and he’s got to rebound the ball. He’s got to focus on those things, and if he does, I think he’ll shoot it better.”

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Dupay has raised thousands of dollars for charity through his foundation, the Teddy Dupay for Kids fund, which is involved in grassroots basketball in the Tampa area. With one of his board members being from Puerto Rico, Dupay visited the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and saw an island in need of aid.

“I saw all the trash everywhere, I saw kids carrying buckets of water,” Dupay said. “I saw people that really weren’t eating.”

As a result, Dupay has partnered with the MCS foundation to launch a campaign of inspirational basketball clinics throughout Puerto Rico from March 4-10 aimed at helping children recover from the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

“We’ve got over 1,000 kids signed up, no cost to them,” Dupay said. “It’s all kids in very tough spots. So we’re going to do a basketball week in Puerto Rico, March 4-10, I’m going to be doing eight different camps, all over the island. We’ve got a professional league down there that’s involved. J.J. Berea just sponsored a bunch of basketballs. We’re having to buy a bunch of hoops. We’re rebuilding a bunch of courts. So we’re raising money, we’re raising awareness, we’re helping kids and it’s actually really, really exciting.”