The main bracket of the tournament is not the only place you’ll see some great hoops action. As always, COP has filled the Signature Series, Sunshine Series and Hugh Thimlar Tribute with strong teams as well.
Leading the way in the Signature Series is AZ Compass Prep School (Chandler, Ariz.). Coming off a stellar 28-2 season while making it to the GEICO Nationals semifinals, the Dragons are a fast-rising powerhouse in prep hoops. Compass Prep is led by the No. 12 senior, 6’10” Sadraque Nganga and No. 3 junior, 6’5” Marquis “Mookie” Cook.
North Carolina state champion Combine Academy; Crestwood Preparatory out of Toronto, Canada; and Sunshine Independent Athletic Association state champ Victory Rock Prep (Bradenton, Fla.) round out the Signature Series.
The Sunshine Series features Class 5A state runner-up Choctawhatchee (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), Class 5A-Region 4 runner-up Miami Norland (Miami), Class 4A-Region 3 semifinalist Tampa Catholic, and this year’s big story Life Christian Academy (Kissimmee, Fla.).
What makes Life Christian an interesting story is the buzz surrounding 6’6” senior Hansel Emmanuel, a player who moved to Florida less than a year ago from the Dominican Republic. Videos of his flashy dunks, passes and shooting have gone viral, not just because they look great, but because Emmanuel does it all with only one arm. He lost his left arm in an accident when he was just six years old. Word is that Emmanuel will compete in the Edison National Bank Slam Dunk Championship on Sunday, December 19.
And the Hugh Thimlar Tribute continues this year honoring the legendary college and high school coach. This year’s game will feature Christopher Columbus (Miami, Fla.) against hometown Southwest Florida Christian (Fort Myers, Fla.). As coach of what was then called Edison Junior College, Thimlar created a junior college national powerhouse over 26 seasons. Overall, he won 604 games over 40 seasons as a head coach in Indiana and Florida. He also founded the City of Palms tournament, then called the News-Press Christmas Basketball Tournament, in 1973, with six teams competing at Edison in a regional tournament.
Tickets on sale tomorrow
Now that the field has been unveiled for this year’s Culligan City of Palms Classic, it’s time to get your tickets. More than 3,000 seats will be available for each day of the six-day tournament, but you’ll want to get yours fast before they sell out. Check out our website tomorrow at https://cityofpalmsclassic.com/tickets/ to purchase your tickets for the 48th Culligan City of Palms Classic or call the box office at 239-481-4849 or 1-800-440-7469.