Oct 31, 2012
Word Of God's John Wall drives the lane against Christ School in the Shavlik Randolph Foundation Invitational Championship game as part of the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational Tournament at Broughton High School Tuesday, December 30, 2008. Christ School won 76-73. (Photo by Jeffrey A. Camarati)
I remember sitting on press row on a late December night in 2008 having a discussion.
The Holiday Invitational – then the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational – had just wrapped up. Tim Candon and myself had been there all day, every day covering the event for HighSchoolOT.com. Bryan Hanks, the media coordinator, was also with us.
The topic: Was the 2008 Holiday Invitational the best ever?
Four years later I feel like I know the answer. Probably.
Obviously I'm not old enough to remember the tournaments from the 1980's (or the 1990's for that matter), and I know a lot of great talent played in the tournament, but 2008 was something special.
The atmosphere in the gym was electric every night. We saw great performances from individual players and teams as a whole. The fans were into the games. The gym was filled by mid-afternoon, leaving hundreds if not thousands of people outside trying to get in.
A ticket to the Holiday Invitational was a hot ticket to get that year.
A field of talent that any tournament would struggle to beat was present, headed up by future No. 1 NBA Draft pick John Wall. Playing with Wall at Word of God were players like C.J. Leslie. Just take a look at these all-tournament teams:
Shavlik Randolph Foundation 8-team Tournament:
Masom Plumlee (Christ School/Duke) - MVP
John Wall (Word of God/Kentucky) - MOP
Garrius Adams (Middle Creek/Miami)
Reggie Bullock (Kinston/UNC)
Lakeem Jackson (Christ School/South Carolina)
Tyreak Johnson (St. Raymond/Howard)
C.J. Leslie (Word of God/NC State)
Tashawn Mabry (Rocky Mount/Rhode Island)
Akeem Richmond (Southern Lee/East Carolina)
Tom Tankelewicz (Middle Creek/Western Carolina)
Summit Hospitality Group 8-team Tournament:
Lorenzo Brown (Centennial/NC State) - MVP
Ryan Kelly (Ravenscroft/Duke) - MOP
Luke Davis (Ravenscroft/UNC)
Nolan Dennis (Richland/Baylor)
Weston Murphy (Apex)
Josh Ogeden (Father Henry Carr, Toronto)
Stan Okoye (Knightdale/VMI)
Adrian Rodgers (Centennial/USC Upstate)
Earnest Ross (Panther Creek/Auburn)
Melvin Tabb (Enloe/Wake Forest)
That is one of the most impressive all-tournament team lists I have seen from any tournament, and that is why the 2008 Holiday Invitational was at least one of, if not the best ever.
This season could come pretty close to topping that. Players from each of the three Triangle ACC schools will be represented, and we have the No. 1 player in the Class of 2015 coming. Mix that in with the fact that there are a few very strong classes of players moving through the high schools in North Carolina now, and the Holiday Invitational will be a hot ticket again this season.