Two of the standouts in the 16-team field coming in for the 63rd annual Neosho Holiday Classic are the Cypress Falls Eagles from Houston (Texas) and the Benjamin Banneker Academy Warriors from Brooklyn (New York).
MaxPreps ranks Cypress Falls No. 5 in the state of Texas and No. 11 nationally. The Eagles were 13-2 on the season entering their game against Jersey Village. Cypress Falls’ losses have been against Waxahachie (75-69) and Westlake (69-49), both games in the Cypress Hoops Invitational.
The Eagles have five players averaging double-digit points — Nigel Hawkins at 18.3, Kendall Scott 12.3, Andrew Nguyen 12.2, Trajan Wesley 12.0, and Deshang Weaver 10.8. Weaver stands at 6-foot-8, Scott 6-7, Hawkins 6-4, Nguyen 5-11, and Wesley 5-10.
Two years ago, Atoscocita (Texas) made waves at the Holiday Classic being the top-ranked team nationally at the time. Their lineup included outstanding guards Carsen Edwards and Greg Shead and big man Fabian White.
Benjamin Banneker plays teams like Van Arsdale, Bushwick, and East New York Transit Tech. Among their former players is Gary Forbes, who scored 1,512 points and grabbed 766 rebounds during his prep career. He played for the Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors in the NBA in the 2010 and 2012 seasons, respectively. Forbes now plays for Faros Larissas of the Greek Basket League.
The host Neosho Wildcats play the Ruskin Golden Eagles in their opening game Wednesday.
Neosho enters the Holiday Classic 1-9 overall on the season with an eight-game losing streak. Top scorer Brady Wise had surgery on his right knee two days after Neosho’s loss to Lamar in the 4-State Coaches Challenge. It’s expected that Wise will be able to return for the Holiday Classic.
In the last two editions of the Holiday Classic, Neosho lost key players to injury, Brian Banks last season and Lukas Werneke two seasons ago.
Ruskin posted a 1-5 record over its first six games with the Golden Eagles’ only win coming against William Chrisman. Their losses have been against Raytown, Raymore-Peculiar, Rockhurst, Blue Springs, and Raytown South.
Neosho and Ruskin play the opening game at the high school, part of a string of five straight games on the tournament’s first day.
McDonald County opens its tournament against West Memphis (Arkansas). The Blue Devils of West Memphis are ranked No. 14 in the state of Arkansas by MaxPreps.
The Blue Devils feature outstanding sophomore Chris Moore, a 6-foot-6 forward who came into high school already hyped as one of the top players in the Class of 2020. At West Memphis Junior High, for example, Moore averaged 27 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, and six blocks per game.
Moore and West Memphis defeated Neosho in the opening round last season.
Last season, McDonald County opened against another tough, athletic Arkansas school in North Little Rock, who play Middle College in their opening game this season.
The Lamar Tigers — another addition to the field — open against Cypress Falls in the late game Wednesday. East Newton dropped out and signed on for the Southwest Tournament.
Other games include Sheffield (Tennessee) and Maumelle (Arkansas), Bentonville West (Arkansas) and St. Joseph Lafayette, and Mitchell (Tennessee) and Van Buren (Arkansas).
FIRST DAY SCHEDULE
Neosho vs. Ruskin, 2 p.m. (HS)
Sheffield vs. Maumelle, 2 p.m. (JH)
Bentonville West vs. Lafayette, 3:30 p.m. (HS)
Mitchell vs. Van Buren, 3:30 p.m. (JH)
West Memphis vs. McDonald County, 5 p.m. (HS)
North Little Rock vs. Middle College, 5 p.m. (JH)
Benjamin Banneker vs. Morrilton, 6:30 p.m. (HS)
Cypress Falls vs. Lamar, 8 p.m. (HS)
2016: Wichita Word of Life (Kansas)
2015: Atascocita (Texas)
2014: St. Joseph Lafayette (Gold Division)
2014: East Newton (Black Division)
2013: Sagemont, Florida (Gold)
2013: Morrilton, Arkansas (Black)
2012: Sunrise Christian (Kansas)
2011: Sunrise Christian (Kansas)
2009: Central Park Christian (Alabama)
2008: Van Buren (Arkansas)
2007: Marietta (Georgia)
2005: Cypress Christian (Texas)
2004: Springdale (Arkansas)
2003: Fayetteville (Arkansas)
1997: Siloam Springs (Arkansas)
1996: Owasso (Oklahoma)
1993: Siloam Springs (Arkansas)
1991: Siloam Springs (Arkansas)
1989: McDonald County
1988: McDonald County
1987: East Newton
1985: McDonald County
1984: Joplin Memorial
1983: Rogers (Arkansas)
1980: Joplin Memorial
1979: Joplin Memorial
1978: Joplin Memorial
1977: Joplin Memorial
1976: Joplin Memorial
1974: McDonald County
1973: McDonald County
1972: Webb City
1969: Mount Vernon
1959: Springfield Central