Tip-off for the 49th Annual City of Palms Classic basketball tournament

Reporter: Zach Oliveri

16 of the country’s top 75 high school basketball teams are competing in the 49th Annual City of Palms Classic basketball tournament at Suncoast Credit Union Arena at Florida SouthWestern State College.

John Naylor, who had served Classic Basketball Incorporated as its executive director for the previous seven years, died in Nov. at 76 years old.

His protégé, FGCU graduate Mary Shaack, had been an intern in 2018 but has become a much bigger piece since then.

“He asked me, what do I want to do? I told him that I wanted to take his job. He laughed, and we laughed together. And he knew. He said, ‘OK, if you want to learn, I’m going to teach you how to do it.’ Right before he passed, he told me, ‘you’re going to take my job, and you got this.’ And so, here we are, Shaack said.

While Shaack made it sound very simple, the job is anything but.

Shaack’s responsibilities include booking almost 1,000 hotel room nights for the visiting teams.

She also must secure local sponsorships for an annual operating budget that has approached $500,000.

Six top picks in the NBA draft have played in this tournament before.

Tipoff began with Archbishop Stepinac from New York facing Vashon from Missouri.

But games will go on all day long on Friday.

Some of the players taking the court for the tournament for the next six days are being recruited by some of the top college teams.

Roger Tava has gone to the tournament for the last 15 years, and WINK News asked why he keeps coming back.

“The competition and the caliber of play players that come,” Tava said. “We’ll be watching games on TV; we see players we’ve watched play here at this tournament. So it’s interesting.”

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