The Tournament History


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 has grown and expanded its scope to include many of the nation’s finest players and teams, setting the standard during the past quarter-century 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)
    • Three NBA Rookie of the Year winners — Ben Simmons (2017-18), Andrew Wiggins (2014-15) and Tyreke Evans (2009-10)
    • 92 first-round NBA Draft choices since 1994, including five in 2019 — R.J. Barrett (3rd overall), Darius Garland (5th), Cam Reddish (10th), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17th) and Nassir Little (25th)
    • A stunning 14 USA Today National High School Players of the Year over a 22-year span, including the past nine in a row — 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)
  • 175 City of Palms alums have played in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game at the end of their senior seasons, including 10 in 2020.
  • 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 12 NBA first-round draft choices
  • 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)
    • Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
    • John Calipari (Kentucky)
    • Leonard Hamilton (Florida State)
  • Many other top NBA celebrities have attended past tournaments including:
    • Larry Bird – NBA Hall of Famer, Boston Celtics
    • Billy Donovan – Head Coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder & two-time national champion (University of Florida)
    • Doc Rivers – Head Coach of the Los Angeles Clippers
    • 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