Meet the 16 national tournament teams of the 43rd annual Culligan City of Palms Classic and the four signature series teams.
High Point (N.C.) Christian Academy
Coach: Brandon Clifford
Last season: 19-14. Advanced the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 3A quarterfinals where it lost 82-70 to Charlotte Providence Day.
Top players: 6-10 senior power forward Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, 5-11 senior point guard Ty Graves, 6-7 forward Amidou Bamba, 6-5 wing Ben Robertson, 6-5 junior wing Jalen Seegers, 6-3 junior guard Michael Hueitt.
Outlook: One of three national powers from the High Point-Greensboro area, the Cougars garnered a No. 12 preseason ranking by USA Today thanks to winning the transfer lotto. The biggest addition was Adebayo, a Kentucky commit who Clifford calls one of the best rebounders in the country, from Pinetown Northside. Boston College signee Ty Graves headed north from Montverde Academy. The Cougars are an uptempo team that can score points in bunches. The biggest key to their success will be their ability to defend this early in the season.
High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan Christian
Coach: Keith Gatlin
Last season: 29-5. Advanced to the the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 3A final where it lost 44-34 to Greensboro Day School.
Top players: 6-0 senior guard Brandon Childress, 6-2 senior guard Kwe Parker, 6-6 senior wing Jalen Johnson.
Outlook: After spending most of the season ranked toward the top of the USA Today rankings last season, the Trojans took quite a hit in the offseason when Harry Giles, the nation’s top recruit and a Duke commit, transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. However, the Trojans return Wake Forest commit Brandon Childress, the son of former Wake standout Randolph Childress, who can shoot like is father. Parker, a Tennessee signee, is a strong two-way player who can handle the ball. Johnson, who also signed with Tennessee, plays above the rim in the open court and can knockdown an open 3-pointer when needed.
Nickname: Yellow Jackets
Coach: Terrance McGriff
Last season: 25-4. Advanced to a regional semifinal in the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 7A tournament where it lost 49-48 to Kissimmee Osceola.
Top players: 6-10 senior power forward Tony Bradley, 6-7 senior power forward Akari Jones, 6-0 junior point guard T.J. Harvin, 6-1 junior forward Adrian Hadley.
Outlook: MaxPreps has the Yellow Jackets ranked 13th in Florida mostly thanks to Bradley, a smooth post player and rebounder who is headed to North Carolina next year. The play of Harvin in the backcourt will be a huge key to the team’s success in the tournament. If he can stay composed and take care of the basketball against some of the best defenders in the country, Bartow could make some noise in the main bracket.
Hoover (Al.) Spain Park
Coach: Donnie Quinn
Last season: 24-6. Lost in the first round of the Alabama Class 7A tournament 56-55 to Vestavia Hills.
Top players: 6-10 junior center Austin Wiley, 6-4 junior point guard Jamal Johnson
Outlook: Quinn took over the team following a disappointing first-round playoff exit last season and inherits a squad with one of the nation’s most valuable big men in Wiley. The Auburn commit averaged 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks per game as a sophomore and has only gotten better. In a huge 7A showdown Saturday, Wiley filled up the stat sheet with 33 points, 25 rebounds and eight blocks in a 78-74 overtime victory over Gadsen City. The long and wiry Johnson is the perfect complement to Wiley and this duo could open some eyes on a big stage against Montverde Academy Saturday.
Orlando First Academy
Coach: Chris Mayberry
Last season: 25-6. Advanced to the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 3A semifinal where it fell 60-52 to Jacksonville Providence.
Top players: 6-5 junior shooting guard Chandee Brown, 6-8 junior power forward Malik William, 5-11 junior point guard Elijah Jordan.
Outlook: Mayberry is a City of Palms veteran as he coached a Julius Randle-led Prestonwood (Texas) Christian to a tournament title in in 2011. Despite losing its starting five to graduation, Brown, William and Jordan transferred from 8A power Orlando Dr. Phillips. The Royals face a tough draw in nationally-ranked High Point (N.C.) Christian but could surprise.
Chino Hills (Calif.)
Coach: Steve Baik
Last season: 24-8. Advanced to the CIF Division I championship game, where it lost to San Ramon Valley 79-71.
Top players: 6-5 senior guard Lonzo Ball, 6-5 junior guard Liangelo Ball, 6-7 sophomore forward Andre Ball, 5-9 freshman guard LaMelo Ball.
Outlook: The Huskies landed at No. 3 in MaxPreps’ most recent Xcellent 25 writer’s poll and are currently No. 4 in USA Today’s national rankings. Lonzo, a UCLA commit, can score or distribute anywhere on the court and averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 steals and 5 blocks a game a season ago. His brother, Liangelo, also a UCLA commit, is a dead-eye shooter. LaMelo, another UCLA pledge, is a quick guard with range. This will be the Huskies’ first appearance in the City of Palms Classic.
Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton Catholic
Coach: Jeremy Osborne
Last season: 25-3. Lost to College Prepatory, 76-74, in the MSHSAA Class 3 quarterfinals.
Top players: 6-9 junior guard Michael Porter, 6-9 sophomore forward Jontay Porter
Outlook: With Porter, a five-star prospect and the No. 3 junior recruit in the nation according to ESPN rankings, the Trailblazers enter as one of the best teams in the field and remain state championship contenders in Missouri’s Class 3. Porter has scholarship offers from Washington, Kansas, Kentucky and Duke. His brother, Jontay, a fast-rising sophomore, averaged 8 points and 7 rebounds a season ago as a freshman. This is Tolton’s first appearance in the City of Palms.
Coach: Dawn McNew
Last season: 27-2. Lost in the Region 6A-3 finals to Tampa Jefferson 73-72.
Top players: 5-10 junior guard Stef’An Strawder, 6-2 junior forward Jarvis Martin, 6-0 sophomore guard Bershard Edwards, 6-2 guard Delshawn Green
Outlook: The Lightning have moved on following the transfer of four-star prospect Emmitt Williams, a 6-foot-10 big man, though it hasn’t hurt them so far. They’ve started the season 10-0 and enter the City of Palms tournament on fire. Historically, the Lightning are 0-6 in the tournament. McNew will become the first female head coach in the City of Palm’s history on Friday. Lehigh played in the Wally Keller Classic last season.
Bronx (N.Y.) Thomas Jefferson
Nickname: Orange Wave
Coach: Lawrence Pollard
Last season: 26-4. Lost to Wings Academy 85-73 in the NYC PSAL semifinals.
Top players: 6-1 senior guard Shamorie Ponds, 6-0 senior guard Rasheen Dunn, 6-3 junior forward Malachi Faison
Outlook: Pollard, entering his 12th season with Thomas Jefferson, compares the Orange Wave to Shaka Smart’s havoc-minded teams of VCU. St. John’s commit Shamorie Ponds and St. Francis University commit Rasheen Dunn get things started at the guard position, but the team is still searching for its first PSAL championship since 1954. Following the City of Palms, the Orange Wave will have a date at the Under Armour Classic at Torrey Pines High in California.
West Linn (Ore.)
Coach: Eric Viuhkola
Last season: 25-4. Claimed an OSAA 6A title with a 68-57 win over Jesuit.
Top players: 6-1 senior guard Payton Pritchard, 5-10 junior guard Braden Olsen, 6-5 senior forward Brooks DeBisschop
Outlook: The three-time defending Oregon 6A champions are led by Pritchard, an Oregon commit who averaged 22 points and nearly six assists per game in 2015. They readied for City of Palms last year with dates against fellow invitees Chino Hills, Wheeler and Montverde Academy. Nationally, Pritchard and Olsen are ranked in the top 70 players by HoopScoop in their classes.
Westerville South (Ohio)
Coach: Ed Calo
Last season: 27-2. Lost to Hubert Heights Wayne 65-57 in the OHSAA Division I title game.
Top players: 6-9 junior center Kaleb Wesson, 6-5 senior forward Andre Wesson
Outlook: Ranked No. 24 on Maxprep’s Xcellent 25, the Wildcats graduated just two seniors from its state runner-up finish a season ago. Wesson, an Ohio State commit, is the anchor in the paint for the Wildcats, while his brother, Andre, is a strong complement at forward.
St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade College Prep
Nickname: Red Devils
Coach: Frank Bennett
Last season: 25-4 record. Lost in the semifinals of the Missouri Class 5 state tournament.
Top players: 6-9 senior Jayson Tatum (Duke), 6-9 senior Tyler Cook (Iowa), senior Mike Lewis (Duquesne) and 6-10 senior Will Gladson.
Outlook: Tatum is considered a consensus top-five senior player in the nation, having averaged 26 points, 11 rebounds and three assists last season and being named Missouri’s Gatorade Player of the Year for the second year in a row. The Red Devils open the Classic at 7:45 p.m. Saturday against Bartow.
Coach: Kevin Boyle
Last season: 31-1
Top players: 6-9 senior Micah Potter (Ohio State), 6-3 senior Howard Washington (Butler), 6-10 senior Bruno Fernando, 6-2 junior Marcus Carr, 6-9 sophomore Silvio De Souza, 6-9 sophomore E.J. Montgomery, 6-7 sophomore Simisola Shittu, 6-5 sophomore R.J. Barrett.
Outlook: The Eagles lost just one game last season – the title game in the City of Palms Classic. But the Eagles also lost 6-9 forward and LSU signee Ben Simmons to graduation. Although the team appears poised to make another deep Classic run, it will be doing so with a young backcourt that supplements Ohio State-bound senior Potter.
Coach: Lawton Williams
Last season: 23-8. Won the Class 6A Florida state championship.
Top players: 6-9 senior Dewan Huell (Miami), 6-1 senior David Jean-Baptiste (UT-Chattanooga), 6-0 senior Tyrik Waite, 6-5 senior Jonathan Andre.
Outlook: The Vikings won their fourth consecutive state title, giving Lawton Williams the distinction of becoming the first coach in Florida to win six Florida state titles at one school. That team lost just one senior to graduation and returns Huell, considered one of the best seniors in the nation. Huell scored 18 points with eight rebounds and six blocks in the title game, a 53-46 victory against Gainesville.
Elizabeth (N.J.) Patrick School
Coach: Mike Rice
Last season: 18-6. Did not play in the postseason.
Top players: 6-0 senior Bryce Aiken (Harvard), 6-8 senior Cyril Langevine (Rhode Island), 6-11 junior Nick Richards, 6-10 junior Bul Ajang, 7-0 junior Buay Koka (New Mexico State), 6-2 junior Jamir Harris, 6-3 junior Marcus McClary.
Outlook: The Patrick School, formerly known as St. Patrick, returns to the Classic for the first time under the new name and with a new coach, with former mentor Kevin Boyle now in his fifth season at the helm of Montverde Academy. Former Rutgers University coach Rice has been named interim coach of the Celtics, who are led on the court by Harvard commit Aiken. The program won the 2010 Classic title, after which it disbanded but reformed under the new name in 2012.
Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler
Coach: Doug Lipscomb
Last season: 30-3. Reigning City of Palms Classic champions and also Class 6A Georgia state champions.
Top players: 6-9 senior Romello White (Georgia Tech), 6-1 junior Darius Perry, 6-3 senior Cam Jordan, 6-6 senior Al-Wajid Aminu (North Florida).
Outlook: Jaylen Brown, the MVP of last year’s Classic, has moved on to Cal-Berkeley. But Perry, a top-100 national recruit and a top-10 player in Georgia, now leads the Wildcats and is joined by White, a transfer from Bradenton IMG Academy. Wheeler will tipoff the Classic in the first game at 2:30 p.m. Friday against High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan Christian.
Chattanooga (Tenn.) Hamilton Heights Christian
Coach: Zach Ferrell
Last season: 28-5. Lost in group play at the National Association of Christian Athletes tournament.
Top players: 6-10 senior center Abdulhakim Ado, 6-5 junior guard Nikeil Alexander-Walker
Outlook: Ado and Walker lead a starting five flush with Division-I offers against a difficult national schedule. Ado is a load to handle at 250 pounds. He averaged 10 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.9 blocks per game as a junior. The Hawks also benefited from a trio of Canadian transfers, including Walker, who is listed as the No. 1 Canadian prospect by North Pole Hoops.
Jacksonville Potter’s House Christian
Coach: Stephen McLaughlin
Last season: 22-11. Won the National Association of Christian Athletes Division I Championship.
Top players: 6-10 senior center Udoka Azubuike, 6-9 freshman wing Jared Jones
Outlook: The Lions and the 280-pound Azubuike are back to defend their Signature Series title. Azubuike dropped 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against 7-foot consensus No. 1 junior DeAndre Ayton last year in the semifinals.
West Chester (Pa.) Westtown School
Coach: Stephen McLaughlin
Last season: 25-8. Lost to Phelps School, 50-46, in the PAISAA championship game
Top players: 6-11 junior center Mohamed Bamba, 6-6 sophomore Cameron Reddish, 6-5 junior guard Brandon Randolph
Outlook: With a rim protector like Bamba, who has offers from Duke, Villanova and Wake Forest, and a scorer like Reddish, currently being pursued by Penn State and Auburn, the Quakers are one of the more powerful teams in the Signature Series bracket. Randolph is a fast-rising complement to each of them, and could give Westtown a push in the right direction.
Orangeville (Ontario) Athlete Institute
Coach: Brandon Lesovsky
Last season: 13-18
Top players: 7-1 senior Thon Maker, 6-9 junior Matur Maker, 6-7 senior Nicola Djogo (Notre Dame), 6-6 senior Cole Long.
Outlook: Maker is considered the top senior in the nation and has added 30 pounds to his frame since his arrival. Maker, a native of South Sudan, has played in Australia and also at high schools in Louisiana and Virginia prior to finding the new home in Canada. As a freshman and sophomore at Carlisle School (Virginia), he averaged 22.2 points per game. Last season, he averaged 22 points, 14 rebounds, 5.0 blocks, 4.5 assist and 3.0 steals per game.
Friday, December 18
2:30 p.m. (Game 1): Marietta Wheeler (Ga.) vs. High Point Wesleyan Christian (N.C.)
4:15 p.m. (Game 2: West Linn (Ore.) vs. Miami Norland
6:00 p.m. (Game 3-Sunshine Series): Punta Gorda Charlotte vs. Tampa Catholic
7:45 p.m. (Game 4): Lehigh vs. Columbia Father Tolton (Mo.)
9:30 p.m. (Game 5): Chino Hills (Calif.) vs. Brooklyn Thomas Jefferson (N.Y.)
Saturday, December 19
11:00 a.m. (Game 6): Consolation: Gm 2 loser (West Linn-Norland) vs. Gm 4 loser (Lehigh-Father Tolton)
12:45 a.m. (Game 7): Spain Park (Ala.) vs. Montverde Academy
2:30 p.m. (Game 8): Orlando First Academy vs. High Point Christian (N.C.)
4:15 p.m. (Game 9-Sunshine Series): Wellington vs. Sarasota Review
6:00 p.m. (Game 10: Quarterfinal: Gm 2 winner (West Linn-Norland) vs. Elizabeth Patrick School (N.J.)
7:45 p.m. (Game 11): St. Louis Chaminade (Mo.) vs. Bartow
9:30 p.m. (Game 12): Gm 4 winner (Lehigh-Father Tolton) vs. Westerville South (Ohio)
Sunday, December 20
2:45 p.m. (Game 13-Signature Series): Chattanooga Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) vs. Westtown (Pa.)
4:30 p.m. (Game 14-Signature Series): Orangeville Athlete Institute (Ontario) vs. Jacksonville Potter’s House
6:10 p.m.: Bahama Breeze half-court shot
6:20 p.m.: Hahn Loeser 3-Point Shootout
7:20 p.m.: Edison National Bank Slam Dunk Championship
Monday, December 21
11:00 a.m. (Game 15): Consolation: Gm 11 loser (Chaminade-Bartow) vs. Gm 1 loser (Wheeler-Wesleyan)
12:40 a.m. (Game 16): Consolation: Gm 8 loser (First Academy-HPoint Chr.) vs. Gm 7 loser (Spain Park-Montverde)
2:20 p.m. (Game 17): Consolation: Gm 5 loser (Chino Hills-Jefferson) vs. Gm 12 loser (Lehigh-Tolton-Westerville)
4:00 p.m. (Game 18-Sunshine Series): St. Petersburg High vs. Lakeland High
6:00 p.m. (Game 19): Quarterfinal: Gm 7 winner (Spain Park-Montverde) vs. Gm 5 winner (Chino Hills-Jefferson)
7:45 p.m. (Game 20): Quarterfinal: Gm 8 winner (FirstAcad-Hpt Chr.) vs. Gm 12 winner (Lehigh-Tolton-Westerville)
9:30 p.m. (Game 21): Quarterfinal: Gm 1 winner (Wheeler-Wesleyan) vs. Gm 11 winner (Chaminade-Bartow)
Tuesday, December 22
9:00 a.m. (Game 22): Consolation semifinal: Gm 16 winner vs. Gm 17 winner
10:40 a.m. (Game 23): Consolation semifinal: Gm 6 winner vs. Gm 15 winner
12:20 p.m. (Game 24): Signature Series Third-Place: Gm 14 loser vs. Gm 13 loser
2:00 p.m. (Game 25): Fifth-place semifinal: Gm 20 loser vs. Gm 10 loser
3:45 p.m. (Game 26): Fifth-place semifinal: Gm 19 loser vs. Gm 21 loser
5:30 p.m. (Game 27): Signature Series Final: Gm 13 winner vs. Gm 14 winner
7:15 p.m. (Game 28): Semifinal: Gm 20 winner vs. Gm 19 winner
9:00 p.m. (Game 29: Semifinal: Gm 21 winner vs. Gm 10 winner
Wednesday, December 23
11:45 a.m. (Game 30): Challenge-round game: Gm 17 loser vs. Gm 15 loser
1:30 p.m. (Game 31): Challenge-round game: Gm 6 loser vs. Gm 16 loser
3:15 p.m. (Game 32): Consolation championship: Gm 23 winner vs. Gm 22 winner
5:00 p.m. (Game 33): Fifth-place championship: Gm 25 winner vs. Gm 26 winner
6:45 p.m. (Game 34): Third-place final: Gm 29 loser vs. Gm 28 loser
8:30 p.m. (Game 35): City of Palms Championship: Gm 28 winner vs. Gm 29 winner
2014: Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler
2013: Montverde Academy
2012: Montverde Academy
2011: Plano Prestonwood Christian
2010: St. Patrick
2009: Paterson (N.J.) Catholic
2008: Mater Dei
2007: St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.)
2006: Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
2005: Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy
2004: Niagara Falls (N.Y.)
2003: Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester
2002: Manhattan (N.Y.) Rice
2001: Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester
2000: Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester
1999: Louisville Ballard
1998: Georgetown (Ky.) Scott County
1997: Baton Rouge (La.) Parkview Baptist
1996: Miami Senior – Classic II
1996: Lexington (Ky.) Catholic – Classic I
1995: Compton (Calif.) Dominguez
1994: New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine
1993: Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw
1992: Washington (D.C.) Dunbar
1991: Miami Senior
1990: St. Petersburg Gibbs
1989: Falls Church (Va.) Flint Hill
1988: Miami Carol City
1987: Miami Jackson
1986: Jacksonville Forrest
1985: Fort Myers
1984: Cypress Lake
1983: Cypress Lake
1982: Fort Myers
1981: Cypress Lake
1980: Cypress Lake
1979: Cypress Lake
1977: Pompano Beach High
1976: Pompano Beach High
1975: Belle Glade Glades Central
1974: Fort Myers