The City of Palms holiday tournament has given the high school basketball world plenty of gifts over the past 35 years.
This year's event certainly has the depth to be just as enjoyable as years past.
Kevin Love grabbed 27 rebounds in a City of Palms game two years ago, at least that was the official count. Some courtside observers counted as many as 35 boards for the UCLA star.
Nick Calathes scored 50 points - six shy of the tournament record - but had everyone talking about his nine assists. Brandon Wright led his team to victory, holding off the likes of Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson and others.
Memories are made at the City of Palms tournament, and this year's field has plenty of storylines. The 16-team tournament and three game Sunshine Series boast a number of top teams this year.
St. Benedict's (N.J.), the top team in this year's field, boasts a lineup that will be difficult to defend at every position. Leading the way is Louisville signee Samardo Samuels. The five-star big man anchors his team inside. The Grey Bees are considered one of the elite teams in the nation, and recently defeated Oak Hill Academy on national television.
Samuels isn't alone. Guard Tamir Jackson shined in the televised game. Big man Greg Echenique, a 6-foot-9 junior, is a top-50 prospect nationally in his class.
The nation's top ranked senior, Greg Monroe, and his Helen Cox (La.) team will make a return showing at the event. Monroe and his teammates were the fourth place team last year.
The layout of the tournament bracket could pit Monroe against Samuels or top-10 forward Eloy Vargas of American Heritage in south Florida.
Rounding out the field
Chicago Hales Fransiscan is making the trip south. Headlining the team are Oregon-bound prospects Matthew Humphrey and Josh Crittle.
Virginia-bound wing Sylven Landesberg is this year's headliner from New York City. He plays with Holy Cross High School.
Defending 4A state champions Miami (Fla.) Pace will also be in the field. Florida-bound Ray Shipman and rising junior Rakeem Buckles are on the team.
North Carolina fans in South Florida will have a chance to see commitment Larry Drew of Taft High School in Los Angeles.
The Sunshine Series will feature junior Noel Johnson of Fayette County High School in Atlanta. Steve Tchiengang, Dashan Harris, Marcus Capers and a handful of other Division I talents are scheduled to participate as well.
News & Notes
Three players in the top 10 of the current Rivals150 rankings for the class of 2008 highlight the field. Monroe is the nation's top ranked senior. Samuels checks in at No. 7, while Vargas is No. 10.
There are 41 City of Palms alums currently on NBA rosters. Fifty-seven have been drafted in the past 14 years, including 30 first-round picks. Over the last 18 years, there has been at least one McDonald's All-American in the field and 68 McDonald's All-Americans have participated in the event.
Florida teams are champing at the bit to participate in the event now, tournament organizers say. This year's event features 11 teams from the Sunshine State.
Opening day schedule
Tuesday, Dec. 18
3:00 p.m. - Baltimore John Carroll vs. New Orleans Helen Cox
4:45 p.m. - Fort Myers (Fla.) Dunbar vs. Georgetown (Ky.) Scott County
6:30 p.m. - Fort Myers (Fla.) vs. Arcadia (Fla.) DeSoto County (Sunshine Series)
8:15 p.m. - Fort Myers (Fla.) Bishop Verot vs. Chester (Pa.)
10:00 p.m. - Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's vs. Gainesville (Fla.)
Amare Stoudemire Invitational Classic
With a field of 16 teams, the inaugural Amare Stoudemire Invitational Classic holds the possibility of a quarterfinal matchup that would likely catch the attention of Stoudemire himself.
If Los Angeles Fairfax High School can get by Bartow (Fla.) High School in the first round, it will meet San Diego High School. In that scenario, the No. 1 junior in the country - Renardo Sidney of Fairfax - would face off against Jeremy Tyler, the No. 1 sophomore in the country. The potential matchup would take place on Thursday night. Rivals.com's Jerry Meyer will be on hand – regardless of whether the matchup materializes.
Sidney and Tyler aren't the only talented forwards in the field. Five other top forwards in the country are on the other side of the bracket.
Five-star forward and Wake Forest bound Al-Farouq Aminu's Norcross ( Ga. ) squad plays Westlake (Fla.) Prep and Texas A&M-bound David Loubeau. Five-star forwards Jamychal Green (Alabama), Kenny Kadji (Florida) and Jordan Hamilton (five-star junior) are also in the field.
Rivals.com will cover the games on Thursday and Friday, which include the winner's bracket quarterfinal and semifinal games.