Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Iozza Commits to Seton Hill

Christian 'CJ' Iozza's story is one of determination and perseverance. As a result he was able to beat the odds. What odds? The ones that say kids from New Hampshire won't go on to be scholarship players in boys basketball. Plus knee and hamstring injuries caused him to miss half of his junior and senior seasons. But he worked hard to get back on the court, and was also helped by attending prep school and being seen at some key exposure events. As a result Iozza accepted a scholarship offer from Seton Hill University, a Division II program in Pennsylvania.

"Most of my recruitment came from going to Hoop Groups Elite Camp at Albright College" Iozza told the NH Notebook. "I came in touch with a lot of D3's and some D2's. From that camp I came in touch with Catholic University, a school I was very interested in. I sent Seton Hill game tape and was in touch with them during my senior summer through the season. In early April I was fighting myself on where I wanted to go thinking it would probably be Catholic, but then Coach Morocco from Seton Hill surprise called me one day offering me a scholarship. It was my goal for my family and I to not have to worry about paying for college. I really enjoyed my visit prior to the call and felt like it's a great fit for me."

Although Iozza ended up achieving his ultimate goal of a basketball scholarship, his injuries definitely made it a tougher mountain to climb.

"It was rough with all the injuries and playing less than half the season my junior and senior year" Iozza explained. "I'd build interest in schools and it would fall off due to them not being able to see me play consistently and at my fullest. Plymouth State had always been by my side since I was at Concord High as a sophomore. Recruitment really didn't start up until after my junior year. I got into contact with a lot of schools and sent out some game tape of my repeat sophomore year and a game or two from my junior year. I got myself healthy in my junior spring and went to a couple of Hoop Group day camps for some exposure. A few D3 schools contacted me and were very interested. I then went into my AAU season with Rivals Prodigy and picked up a handwritten letter from Manhattan."

Iozza attended Concord High his sophomore year before transferring to Proctor Academy. There he repeated his sophomore year and reclassified to the Class of 2014.

"Athletically I went through some rough times at Proctor due to injuries to my left meniscus and hamstrings" Iozza pointed out. "Our trainers are a lot more personal compared to what I had at public school. They work their tails off to make sure their athletes and activity students stay healthy. Basketball-wise I developed a lot, learning from two great coaches Gregor Makechnie and Scott Allenby. They helped me increase my basketball I.Q., so I knew by instinct how to create a scoring opportunity with or without the ball for myself and my teammates. During games you are always going against top notch competition, so I felt like it was easier for me to mature as a basketball player."

Basketball had always been Iozza's main sport, but when he transferred to Proctor he also started playing football. Proctor is known for having one of the premier prep school football programs in the area.

"Football was a blast" said Iozza. "Our coach Ben Ruili really made our team into a family. As much as I hate football as a sport, I couldn't say I would trade my experiences on the football team for anything. Some of my closest friends that I will stay in touch with for a long time came from football. Football helped me a lot with basketball. I have progressively become more physical through my years at Proctor. I’ve had challenges of guarding 6’7-9 players and have done well dealing with them in the post. Also for most basketball players that come to Proctor, Gregor expresses that he wants you to play football because a lot of basketball players are on the football team and we are able to be around each other and bond. I found it nice getting to know my teammates going into the season."

Iozza quickly became an impact player for the Proctor football team. His recruiting page and football videos can be found here: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/874665/christian-iozza

"There were a few schools that expressed interest in football" explained Iozza. "And there were points where I wanted to play football just because in season I enjoyed it so much, but for the most part I always knew I’d end up playing basketball."

Not only was Iozza able to reach his goals athletically, but attending Proctor also helped him grow academically.

"Academically Proctor helped me build better study habits" Iozza said. "I enjoyed that my classes were small and that I was on a first name basis with all my teachers. This allowed for an easy learning environment that was a lot more personal compared to being at Concord high. If I ever needed help with anything I could stay at school past my sports commitment and head over to an extra help, where I could receive one on one help with studying for an upcoming test or simply just getting a homework assignment/paper done. The community at Proctor is great, we all know and tend to like one another."

Now Iozza is eager to hit the court as a member of the Seton Hill men's basketball team and begin a new chapter in his journey. Iozza is a 6-foot-4 wing with a strong frame and well rounded game. He can shoot it from the outside, put the ball on the floor and make plays off the dribble, he can defend and rebound.

"Everyone wants to play, but whatever coach Morocco feels is right I will do" explained Iozza. "First, I need to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches by coming out and working hard both on and off the court. I feel like Im ready to take on the challenges ahead."

Academically, Iozza will head to Seton Hill with a plan but an open mind at the same time.

"I’m still kind of undecided" said Iozza. "I want to coach basketball when its all said and done, but I also really enjoy math and teaching. My Dad and I have talked a lot about what I should study as he's a basketball coach himself. I think I’ll study something in math, communications, or sports management.

Iozza certainly has a lot to be proud of, and he has put in a ton of work to make his dreams come true. But he wasn't able to do it alone.

"I'd really like to thank my grandfather" Iozza concluded. "He has always been my role model and has pushed me to be a better person. He's taught me what's right and what's wrong and has always made sure I have kept my head up even with all the stuff I have been through. I have to thank my parents because they keep a roof over my head and taught me almost everything I know about basketball and being a competitor. Brandon Yeo my AAU coach as a sophomore for always looking out for me even after I left his program. He always reached out to me and make sure if I needed him, I could always call. All the people in my Dad's coaching staff and former players for working me out and looking out for me growing up. Everyone at Proctor Academy; my football/basketball coaches, teammates, and all the teachers/faculty that I’ve been fortunate to know. My whole family for supporting me. Coach Howes at Catholic University and Andrew Novick at Plymouth State. Basically the people who have been there for me through thick and thin and never quit on me. Last but not least Coach Morocco at Seton Hill for giving me this opportunity."

Iozza is clearly a young man with a strong support system and good head on his shoulders. Expect this to be just the beginning of more great things to come for him.

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