The Neosho Daily News recently had a chance to sit down with Justin Branham, the Branco Project Manager and a member of Holiday Classic Tournament Committee, about the upcoming 55th Annual Neosho Holiday Classic.

Q: Are you excited about the upcoming tournament?
A: Oh yes, there’s a lot of effort and a lot of work that goes on to see it all come together.

Q: When did you start planning for this year’s tournament?
A: We started planning it last year. Basically, as soon as last year’s tourney was over, we started thinking of things we could do better, what are some things we can improve.

Q: How excited are you to have it back to a four-day tournament?
A: We were disappointed last year and we had people keep asking us if we quit sponsoring the tournament. It was just how the calendar works every four or five years we will run into problems scheduling. It is different this year; we are back to the four days and full 16 team fields for both the boys and girls.

Q: How is it planned?
A: We have a tournament committee that oversees the planning.  We had quarterly meetings starting back in May. It was myself, Dad (John Branham), Judy (Weaver, Human Resources Director), Joshua Babb (Marketing Coordinator) Theresa Jennings, Dereck Price and Corey (Roy) with the school district. Dr. (Richard) Page and Charles Brazeale also made appearances.  We go through everything from the hospitality rooms to finding rooms and transportation and the teams to invite.”

Q: How did “big” teams get involved?
A: Corey Roy, I know, talked to Eddie Oliver (Hoops USA) and between that and research that you had done we formed a list of teams we felt would be a good fit. I even wrote a letter to Coach Reddick (South Atlanta High School) about the tournament and what we had to offer because we felt they were a good fit. We work to get a few of the best national teams we can here while also making sure our local and regional teams are involved. We are a local tournament and it is a huge source of pride. It always will be Neosho’s tournament, but it’s nice having the Morriltons and the Kansas City Ruskins come here year after year. I think we did a good job this year. It is a very diverse field, and maintains a good balance of the local teams and out-of-town teams.

Q: How much do you know about the new teams coming in?
A: I have heard South Atlanta has three Division I guys, I think they are 6-foot-6, 6-7 and 6-2. I did check them out. And the Birmingham team, if I read it right, has a 7-1 sophomore and is very good. But, in talking to Coach Reddick, I told him I couldn’t guarantee he would win it. Carl Junction a couple of years ago upset San Diego, a nationally ranked team.

Q: What are you working on now?
A: We have a methodology we go through. After we get the teams established, and travel details worked out – the things that take the longest — we start to work on the details that make the tournament actually run.  From getting the referees scheduled and the teams bracketed to who will staff the hospitality rooms and what we will serve for meals. Josh is working on getting the T-shirts done for the tournament players and staff and the coaches will be getting clipboards this year. We are working on getting information to the press, Josh is handling that, trying to get support for the tournament from the surrounding areas. Plus, we are just reviewing all the details and making sure we are getting our ducks in a row. We got the Branco Web site revised ( and we have a new site, which will host information on the tournament. We had our last meeting on Monday, Nov. 30, and everyone has their marching orders.

Q: As far as the tournament, what feedback do you get?
A: We have always had good comments from all of the coaches, players and fans. For myself, as a fan, I wasn’t that good at basketball, so I live vicariously through the kids on the court. There have been some pretty amazing games. The kids from CJ probably could’ve won a state championship and still would’ve remembered knocking off San Diego more vividly. Plus, I love the environment and the support. Neosho is amazing in supporting this tournament.  With all negative issues swirling around our city and country, it’s a great time to have a positive event for Neosho to rally around.  We hope everyone comes out to support the tournament and look forward to another great four days of basketball.