Jayhawk Insider: From Winning FIBA Medals to Winning Conference Weekly Honors

by Miranda Horn

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Ioanna Chatzileonti, a six-foot-two-inch freshman forward, has made her mark in the first few weeks of the basketball season. In her first game, Chatzileonti blocked two shots and dropped 15 points, going 7-8 from the field, landing her Big 12 Freshman of the Week.

There are three true freshmen on the University of Kansas women’s basketball roster for the 2020-21 season, all combining for a substantial number of minutes each game.

“For a freshman to go out and go 7-for-8 from the floor is something she should feel very good about. She’s a terrific player with a bright future,” Brandon Schneider, KU women’s basketball head coach, said.

The versatile forward from Athens, Greece specializes in the post, but her dribbling skills elevate the Jayhawks’ transition offense. Chatzileonti’s 14 rebounds against Oral Roberts University on Sunday helped launch the team to their 27 fast break points.

Chatzileonti lines the category leader charts for the Jayhawks. Chatzileonti leads the team in rebounds (40), rebound average (10), defensive rebounds (31), free throw attempts (17) and blocked shots (7). She is also a close second in offensive rebounds (9) and game minutes (averaging 25:12 per game).

“She has been really good and competitive on the glass,” Schneider said. “I was proud of her competitiveness and how she played from a physical standpoint at Ole Miss and as a freshman in that type of environment and that type of size and athleticism, and it just carried over to today.”

According to Chatzileonti, European style basketball differs in the physicality of play. She has had to pick up the more physical American style of play and her defensive stats show that she has succeeded.

“I think it is physical in Europe too, but here there are a lot of charges and in Europe, we don’t have charges and the defensive fouls are called easier in Europe than here,” Chatzileonti said. “That was new to me, but it [the Ole Miss game] was a good experience.”

Being young and a crucial player is not new for the freshman forward either. As the youngest player on the Greek National team, she was the second-leading scorer while also leading in rebounding. Additionally, she earned several FIBA Europe honors, including a U18 and U16 first team and U16 tournament MVP.

“The Greek National team helped me a lot because we played in many tournaments in South Africa, China, and Europe of course. So being able to participate in these competitions was always a new experience for me and I saw lots of different styles of basketball,” Chatzileonti said.

The forward from Athens, Greece has also showcased her skill previous to her KU career, earning a FIBA bronze medal in 2019 on the Greek National team.

Chatzileonti’s skill did not come without hours of work in the gym. Like many successful basketball players, it is the time spent outside of games that makes the difference on the stat sheets.

“I put in a lot of work. The things I am doing now are all of the work from the past years,” Chatzileonti said.

The Jayhawks will compete in their first Big 12 game of the season on Thursday, December 10 in Allen Fieldhouse against the University of Oklahoma. KU will also play their first away conference game against the University of Texas on December 17 in Austin, Texas.

“I think it is really important to start your Big 12 conference [play] with a win,” the freshman said.

The Jayhawks are currently 3-1, coming off a 100-point game against Oral Roberts University. Six Jayhawks in the game finished in double-digit scoring.