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The Tournament History

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In December 1973, the City of Palms Classic began, like so many events, as a simple, local Christmas basketball tournament — the brainchild of legendary Edison Community College head coach Hugh Thimlar and a small group of high school coaches and administrators. Over the years, the “City of Palms Classic” (named by Donnie Wilkie in 1987) has grown and expanded its scope to include many of the nation’s finest players and teams, setting the standard during the past three decades by which all other holiday basketball tournaments are compared.

The Culligan City of Palms Classic, now in its 48th year, is the premier boys’ high school basketball tournament in America!


Historical Highlights

  • Nearly 1,000 City of Palms products have advanced to NCAA Division I competition, including 138 at “Power-Seven conference” schools last season alone
  • 75 players were on National Basketball Association rosters at the start of the 2019-2020 season, constituting more than 15 percent of the entire league! The roll call of City of Palms stars through the years includes:
    • Six overall No. 1 NBA Draft picks — DeAndre Ayton (2018), Ben Simmons (2016), Andrew Wiggins (2014), Anthony Bennett (2013), John Wall (2010) and Kwame Brown (2001)
    • Four NBA Rookie of the Year winners — LaMelo Ball (2020-21), Ben Simmons (2017-18), Andrew Wiggins (2014-15) and Tyreke Evans (2009-10)
    • 100 first-round NBA Draft choices since 1994, including eight in 2020 — James Wiseman (2nd overall), LaMelo Ball (3rd), Isaac Okoro (5th), Onyeka Okongwu (6th), Cole Anthony (15th), Josh Green (18th), Payton Pritchard (26th) and Udoka Azubuike (27th)
    • A stunning 14 USA Today National High School Players of the Year over a 22-year span, including nine in a row from 2011-19 — Sharife Cooper (2019), R.J. Barrett (2018), Michael Porter, Jr. (2017), Lonzo Ball (2016), Ben Simmons (2015), Jahlil Okafor (2014), Andrew Wiggins (2013), Nerlens Noel (2012), Austin Rivers (2011), Samardo Samuels (2008), Kevin Love (2007), Gerald Wallace (2000), Donnell Harvey (1999) and Al Harrington (1998)
  • 182 City of Palms alums have played in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game at the end of their senior seasons, including 7 in 2021.
  • The 2008 tournament was labeled “the best field in the history of high school basketball” by national recruiting guru Clark Francis of HoopScoop Magazine, but the 2015 City of Palms Classic (the last one played at Bishop Verot HS) has already produced 17 NBA first-round draft choices, including 12 lottery picks
  • Hundreds of coaches and scouts at every level use this venue for recruiting. Here are some of the top NCAA Division I coaches that have attended past City of Palms Classics:
    • Roy Williams (North Carolina)
    • John Calipari (Kentucky)
    • Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
    • Leonard Hamilton (Florida State)
  • Many other top NBA and basketball celebrities have attended past tournaments including:
    • Dick Vitale – Hall of Fame ESPN broadcaster
    • Larry Bird – NBA Hall of Famer, Boston Celtics
    • Billy Donovan – Head Coach of the Chicago Bulls & the University of Florida’s two-time national champions
    • Doc Rivers – Head Coach of the Philadelphia 76ers
    • Kenny “The Jet” Smith – Emmy award-winning commentator, TNT’s “Inside the NBA” & two-time NBA champion (Houston Rockets)
    • Donnie Walsh – Consultant for Basketball Operations of the Indiana Pacers