NEW PALESTINE — At a mid-December practice, Julius Gizzi was leading the way in his team’s conditioning drill.

The New Palestine boys basketball team was ending practice with the “Figure 8 Jumping” drill, going from basket to basket and leaping as high as possible at the rim.

The 6-foot, 3-inch 180-pound junior guard ran to the first goal, jumped, and easily touched the rim.

A lot has changed from Gizzi’s sophomore to junior year.

Nearly 40 pounds heavier, Gizzi wasn’t able to grab that rim last season.

Now he’s jumping, dunking, and has seen his overall game improve exponentially.

In fact, as he lost weight his game grew.

“The conditioning part is crazy,” Julius said of his new look and dedication to health and basketball. “I couldn’t run (last year) like I can this year. The biggest difference is my vertical. I could barely nip the rim last year and now I’m dunking a little bit, hanging on the rim. That’s a very huge difference.”

As a sophomore Gizzi was still a very key component of one of New Palestine’s most successful basketball teams.

He came off the bench and averaged 8.9 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. He was the fourth leading scorer on a 23-3 sectional championship team. He led the Dragons with 38 3-pointers.

Still, he was disappointed in his season. He wanted to play more, but knew he wasn’t in the shape to do so.

As soon as that sophomore season ended, Gizzi decided he was going to put a plan together, with the help from his basketball-playing family, to get him ready for his junior year and beyond.

His brother, Maximus (a senior at Marian University) and sister Isabella (a freshman at University of Saint Francis) are both college basketball players. Dad, Mike, played collegiately and professionally overseas. Mom, Sarah, was a star for the Dragons and the school’s former girls basketball coach. She also played Division I college basketball.

Julius wants to follow in those footsteps and play beyond his time at NPHS. He knew there had to be a change.

“I’ve always wanted to play high-level college basketball. I’ve seen everyone in my family get a chance to do that and I want to do that myself,” Julius said. “I knew if I wanted to play college ball I had to get in better shape and had to be able to have the numbers in the season to get college looks. I just had to get in better shape.”

He got in better shape and he is definitely putting up the number.

Through five games, Gizzi is averaging 27.6 points, 7.8 rebounds. 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He’s shooting 55.6 percent from the field.

In wins Dec. 15 and Dec. 16 over New Castle and Franklin Central, respectively, he combined for 74 points, hitting 27 of 45 field goals, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range. He was successful on 15 of 17 free-throw attempts in a 43-point performance in the win over FC.

It was the third most points scored in a game by a New Palestine boys basketball player. Ryan Curry had 46 in a 2015 game and T.J. Ott scored 44 in a 1998 contest.

According to statistics on, Gizzi is third in the state in scoring. Only Philip Randolph of Indianapolis International (31.5 ppg) and Jack Smiley of Valparaiso (28.8 ppg) score more per game.

A year ago, Julius was primarily a perimeter shooter. He is a little bit of everything now. He can drive, create, get to the free-throw line, and has a more complete game.

“It’s unexplainable,” Julius said of such a big change in his game and coming off such a productive week in wins over New Castle and Franklin Central. “I knew if I put the work in my numbers and performances would be better and I would have a lot better year. To start off like this, I didn’t really think that would ever happen. It’s a great feeling to know that the work I put in the offseason and the work I’m still putting in is paying off.”

Julius credits his family for being big helpers during his transition.

He’s worked out with and has had great support from his older brother. Mom has provided lunches for him to take to school. And, everyone in the family has been there for answers when it comes to the things he needs to do and know to play basketball at a higher level.

“It was definitely difficult, but having my family around me, my brother being a college athlete, my parents going through it, my sister being a college athlete, I know what it’s like,” Julius said. “I know the work ethic to have. You have to eat clean, and all that stuff. Once I started noticing the change, I always thought I could do even more. I want to play college ball. I want to keep improving, get better, and be the best I possibly can.”

“(There were) 90-degree days (in the summer) and we’re in the pool and he’s running laps in the neighborhood,” Mike Gizzi said. “That’s when I said, ‘This kid’s serious.’ Isabella, Maximus, we’re all in the pool hanging out and he’s jumping rope in the driveway dripping in sweat.”

As an assistant coach for the boys team, Mike Gizzi has been able to get a bit of a closer look on how much his son has improved.

“It was very obvious he made a decision after last (season) and having some varsity success, he was going to change his diet and ramp up the work,” Mike said. “There’s no pressure on him from anybody, but he has caring basketball people around him. He’s leaned on Maximus a ton. Maximus knows how hard it is to play at the next level.

“In my coaching career, and this is my fifth year on the varsity bench and I coached middle school for 10 years, and I played a lot of basketball, I have not seen many kids, if any, work harder than he does. He was in the gym every day in the summer, sometimes twice, kids just don’t do that today.”

Head coach Trent Whitaker began seeing his junior standout’s hard work pay off in the summer. He already knew he had a good player, but now he has a much better player.

“He’s put in the work. What he’s doing this year is pretty impressive,” Whitaker said. “If he’s in the shape he was last year, he’s not scoring that many points.”

Julius said he’s lost about 40 pounds. He’s gained five to 10 pounds back in muscle from working out. Along with putting up big offensive numbers, he believes he has had a great improvement on defense, too, just from being able to move better.

“As I was eating better, and working out it all kind of started going in the right direction,” Julius said. “I just stayed true to it and kept doing what I was doing. Once I got to a certain point I needed to maintain that, so I changed my diet again, got more calories in me and kept eating protein and healthier foods. I’ve stayed where I’m at now the last two or three months.”

“Three or four weeks into it, I started noticing, not a big difference, but I could start telling how I was moving and how I felt,” Julius added. “I felt cleaner, stronger, and, obviously, I felt slimmer. Even on the court, I felt faster and felt I could jump higher. Everything started going in the right way and the way I envisioned it.”

“When the (high school) season ended and we started the spring and summer AAU that I coached, that’s when I noticed him starting to flip the page, diet, getting good sleep, running, exercising on his own,” Mike said. “I could start seeing in the summer, we play a very competitive AAU schedule, all the big names in the Class of 2025, and I was seeing the weight and pounds coming off.

“(His change) makes him faster, more athletic. Last year he wasn’t close to dunking, now he can dunk. Losing that weight has changed his game completely. I mean this when I say this, I don’t think there’s a better scorer in the 2025 class than him, an all-around scorer, pure scorer. There are better players, obviously, but he is doing it now and he did it in the summer. He can score inside, outside, makes free throws, creates his own shot, creates other shots for people.”

“I can’t tell you how much pride Sarah and I have in the changes he has made on his own. We thought about dietitian, nutritionist, a personal trainer, we didn’t have to do any of that. He did it on his own, with the help of his brother and friends.”