Anthony Giomi had a goal.
“I would tell myself every day, you are going to win the SCIAC (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) and you are going to play a big part on this team.”
It seemed like a tall task for a player who had not played more than 10 minutes a game or took barely more than two shots per game. In fact, Giomi averaged just 2.5 points per game and had never scored more than seven points.
But Giomi was determined for more.
As a sophomore at West Seattle High School he became interested in Chapman University. At the time, Giomi was a 5-foot-10 guard known for his 3-point shooting and Chapman assistant coach Mike Molina was clear the Panthers were looking for bigs … and Giomi did not fit the need.
Giomi eventually grew to be a 6-4 senior and, by that point, he had Chapman’s interest as well and committed to come to Orange … not far at all from Disneyland.
Giomi hoped to make an instant impact for one of the top teams in the conference, but it just did not happen that way.
“Like every freshman, you think you are the best player in the world and think you deserve to start,” Giomi said. “Really quickly you get humbled when you realize how much experience and seniority plays a role.”
Chapman head coach Mike Bokosky wanted Giomi to become more of a post player, which was quite an adjustment for a player used to firing from distance.
“Coach Bokosky loved me down [in the post], he kept telling me that was what I was going to do,” Giomi said. “For the first two years I was a little bit reluctant to do that.”
The stat lines from his first two years were nearly identical: 7 minutes and 2.5 points per game. Little minutes and little production. Some athletes in this position might look to transfer due to lack of playing time or speak out to coaches and teammates about how they deserve a bigger role.
(Photos by Larry Newman)
“I have never really been someone who is thinking about my minutes,” Giomi said. “[Coach Bokosky] would always tell me ‘someday you are going to be great.’”
Bokosky has been a head coach for 30 years and knows the value of players like Giomi, who trust the program and themselves.
“Anthony never has a bad day,” Bokosky said. “For basketball, it is an unbelievable asset to have.”
Giomi expected to break out in 2020-21. He was comfortable in the paint and embraced the role … but then COVID took over. Games continued for many across the country, but unlike other Division III conferences who had complicated schedules but still had a season, the SCIAC canceled all sports.
No opportunity to display the progress in his game.
“When we didn't have [a season] it was really hard,” Giomi said. “I had never in my life had that much time off since I was 6 years old.”
Giomi was among several Chapman players to attend practices at local high school gyms around the Orange County area. Any chance they could play and forget the realities of the lost season, they took.
“You could tell guys were rusty but we all just wanted to play so bad,” Giomi said. “Those were some of the better runs I have had because people didn’t know when they would play basketball again.”
The shock of the cancelled season was tough for the Panthers to accept.
“We weren’t even trying to work on our game,” teammate Daniel Foldes said. “We were just trying to get away from COVID.”
Giomi took the time to bond with teammates and move his game ahead, pushing his skills to the next level.
“Having that year off propelled me into this year mentally,” he said.
Giomi was ready was ready for a big senior year when October 2021 rolled around. A December 2021 graduate, Giomi had plenty of opportunity to put more time into his game.
His goal was simple: “I am going to leave absolutely everything I can out on this court because this is probably the end for me.”
Giomi and the Panthers answered the bell quickly, winning six in a row with the Seattle native taking on a new role as a high-level contributor. He was held to just four points in the season opener against Puget Sound, but went for double-figures in the next five games.
“A year off really helped him grow mentally and this season it showed,” Foldes said. “We knew he had the ability to be a great player, he just never got the opportunity when he was younger.”
One of the attributes Bokosky loves about Giomi is his versatility.
“Anthony can guard all positions,” he said. “He is very savvy and understands how to play.”
Giomi described his role as the team’s pacemaker. His priority in each game was to crash the offensive glass and slow the team down during certain possessions.
“We have some guys who can play super fast, and I brought a little more slowness,” he said.
Midway through the season, Chapman was 14-2 and 5-2 in conference play. Chapman was not only a contender in the SCIAC, but also consistently in the regional rankings.
“Every year takes on its own personality with players,” Bokosky said. “We knew we had enough talent. Then we won some games early, then we started to believe.”
Belief with talent is a winning mix and Chapman won a lot.
“It just felt like on any given night one of us could go for 20 points or have a great game,” Giomi said. “We were just impossible to guard.”
Statistically, Giomi’s impact was obvious, as the team headed into the SCIAC tournament with a 12-3 conference record. But his impact on his teammates was more than numbers.
“He always has a great attitude,” Foldes said. “His energy led into the rest of the team's energy and was a reason we were so successful.”
Giomi finished the conference season averaging 11.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. His totals earned second-team all-SCIAC honors. His 55.1 field-goal percentage was third highest in the SCIAC, a testament to his massive growth as a player.
“It was a great honor to get,” Giomi said. “I have never been an all-conference player before.”
Ultimately, Chapman would fall to Pomona-Pitzer in the SCIAC final, 76-71, Giomi did not complete his goal of helping the Panthers win the SCIAC, but he did play an important player for a program that made nationals for the first time in five years.
Their first-round matchup was against Mary Hardin-Baylor. Both teams were ranked in Region X, with Chapman No. 3 and MHB fourth.
In front of an “electric” crowd, the Panthers and MHB went back and forth, but Chapman took a disappointing 88-81 loss. Giomi closed his career with a line that would have been unbelievable just a couple of years before: 18 points, five boards, two assists.
The loss hurt, especially since Chapman held an eight-point lead in the second half.
“When you are with a group every day for several months. It is like a family. You care,” Bokosky said. “You can't buy this. This is why people play sports.”
“It was not the way we wanted it to go,” Giomi said. “It was a lot of fun to play in that gym.”
Beyond the loss, beyond the tremendous season for Chapman, Giomi proved himself capable of doing all the things that once seemed so unlikely. This guy who was not big enough and who did not seem good enough, surely was both.
“The thing about Anthony is he never gives up,” Bokosky said. “Anthony is a great example of what can happen at any sport and any position for a kid who wants to stick to it.”
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