Montreal Comes Together for Annual Classic Hoops Tournament

Fans and Players Honour Bob White

Annual basketball tournament brings communities together. Photo courtesy: Aaron Napoleon/Montreal Classic Hoops
Ottawa Elites player sets up to shoot a free throw. Photo courtesy: Aaron Napoleon/Montreal Classic Hoops
Ottawa Elites set up on the defensive end. Photo courtesy: Aaron Napoleon/Montreal Classic Hoops
Players receive Toronto Raptors themed banners. Photo courtesy: Aaron Napoleon/Montreal Classic Hoops

Many youths and community members came out to join the festivities at the Montreal Classic Hoops Tournament last weekend.

The 19th annual Montreal Classic Hoops Tournament took place on Friday, April 21 to the 23. The tournament is for kids under the age of 18, and has participants from every age group of youth basketball

This year’s edition of the tournament marked the second time that Ottawa Elite, a youth basketball organization from the nation’s capital, made the trip to Dawson College to play in the tournament.

“We came here last year and we made it to the finals and we lost by two points, I believe it makes my guys tougher and they run a really good tournament here,” said Patrick Sullivan, head coach of Ottawa Elite, who beat Cartierville YMCA by a score of 77-64 in the juveniles boys category.

Aron Masilingi, a player for Ottawa Elite, was very excited about his team as well as his personal experience at the tournament. He said the team enjoyed themselves and bonded in the process. “This is our first time playing together and we are getting to know each other better,” he said.

This year’s tournament was dedicated to Bob White, who passed away on Nov 4, 2016. White was one of the founding members of the West End Sports Association and he believed in helping the youth not only through sports but by being an active member in the community.

At the tournament you could see everyone wearing the tournament’s official t-shirt which donned Bob White’s name on the back. The shirt also featured one of White’s favourite quotes from Hall of Fame baseball player Jackie Robinson: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Players expressed how much the tournament meant to them. Keishawn Puckerin, who plays for Beurling Academy, has participated in the tournament for the past four years. He has seen his game improve after every time he’s participated. One major reason for this is that he gets to go up against teams from all over Canada.

The tournament allows the players to keep in touch with others who live in other parts of Canada. Puckerin mentioned that he went up against an old friend of his who moved to Ottawa several years ago. “I got to see a friend I haven’t seen in seven years. I started playing basketball in a house-league divison with him, and that’s where I developed into a basketball player,” Puckerin explained.

The memories of previous years keeps young Montrealers interested in the event. “Every time I come back, it just brings back the memories. Basketball turns friends into family,” said Puckerin.

Many of the young athletes were eager to see how their basketball skills have developed. “I already have more points that I had in last year’s tournament. I think I greatly improved” said Ayomide Durowaiye.

The players see the importance of the tournament because it keeps them off the street. Afreyah Boatang, who plays for the YMCA NDG, has seen the positive effect the tournament has on young individuals.

“[…] I have been playing for the NDG YMCA for a long time,” said Boatang. “I used to see [my teammates] involved in drugs but they stopped because they know they have games coming up and basketball is a good influence on them,” he continued.

“The community involvement is extremely important here,” said spectator Trevor Williams. “There is jerk chicken, fried chicken and I think the cultural aspect is extremely important,” he continued.

Williams also praised the tournament for its inclusion of players from different parts of the country, and different cultural backgrounds. He thinks that every player’s exposure to not only different cultures but of different styles of basketball is one of the many good things about the tournament.

The tournament will continue to be played on an annual basis. Players, like Keishawn Puckerin, are looking forward to participating in it for as many years as possible.

2018 will mark the tournament’s 20th anniversary.