The names of teams have been started to be released for the 64th annual Neosho Holiday Classic sponsored by Branco.
At the time of deadline, four teams on the boys and two squads on the girls side have been announced: Bentonville (Arkansas), Joplin, McLain Science & Technology (Oklahoma), and West Memphis (Arkansas) for the boys, then Shiloh Christian (Arkansas) and Lamar for the girls.
Of course, you can expect local perennials Neosho and McDonald County in the field, not to mention the heavyweights that draw the crowds and the oohs and the aahs.
The tournament begins Thursday, December 27 and runs through Saturday, December 29, meaning the boys return to two eight-team brackets and two championship winners.
Ticket prices are $10 for a day pass and $25 for a tournament pass. Tickets can be purchased through neoshoholidayclassic.com. Games are played at both Neosho High and Neosho Junior High.
The hallowed 3-point and slam dunk contests take place after the semifinals on Friday, December 28. Be sure to arrive early for this extravaganza.
Several former Holiday Classic participants have gone on to fame and glory.
— Purdue junior guard Carsen Edwards showcased his shooting and scoring abilities in the 2015 Holiday Classic for the mighty Atascocita (Texas) Eagles, a team ranked No. 1 by USA Today at the time they played in Neosho.
Edwards led Atascocita to a Holiday Classic title.
During his sophomore season at Purdue, Edwards averaged 18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists and he won the Jerry West Award that's given annually to the nation's top shooting guard. He also earned NABC All-American second team honors.
In his first six games during his junior season, Edwards averaged 25.3 points with 20-point outings in his first five outings.
— Atascocita featured a pair of stellar guards in Edwards and Greg Shead, but they also had a dominant big man in Fabian White.
White chose Houston for his collegiate destination, not far from home, and the Cougars' program once upon a time featured basketball greats Elvin Hayes, Clyde Drexler, and Akeem Olajuwon, plus everybody knows the phrase "Phi Slama Jama."
White has yet to play for the Cougars this season, his sophomore year, and he underwent surgery in June due to a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Ouch.
During his freshman season, White earned American Athletic Conference all-rookie honors and he led the Cougars in blocked shots with 32.
— Athletes in the Holiday Classic that went on to future success are not confined to the hardwood, a couple of them have enjoyed success in football. For example, former NFL quarterback Josh Freeman came to Neosho on the Grandview team.
More recently, in the 2016 Holiday Classic, Dekaney (Texas) featured Malcolm Epps, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound specimen and four-star football recruit now a Texas Longhorn.
A true freshman at tight end, Epps made his first collegiate reception November 10 against Texas Tech. He's appeared in two of the Longhorns' last three games.
Texas (9-3) battles Oklahoma (11-1) for the Big 12 Championship on Saturday.
— The 2017 edition of the Holiday Classic included nationally-ranked Cypress Falls (Texas) and the Eagles featured explosive 6-foot-4 shooting guard Nigel Hawkins.
Hawkins now plies his skills for the UTEP Miners (famous for winning the 1966 NCAA Championship with the first all-black starting lineup against the all-white lineup of Kentucky) and in his first four career outings this season, including games against Arizona and New Mexico, Hawkins averaged seven points and nearly four rebounds.
Hawkins scored four points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out three assists in his debut against Arizona and he produced 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one blocked shot against New Mexico.
— Eyes have been on West Memphis forward Chris Moore since he was a freshman and now he's a junior forward.
Last season, Moore helped the Blue Devils win an Arkansas Class 6A state title.
Rivals ranks the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Moore (a three-star recruit) 22nd at his position and 126th nationally.
Abilene Christian (where former Nevada standout Clay Gayman now plays), Arkansas, Arkansas State, Auburn, Florida, Memphis, Miami (Florida), Mississippi, Murray State, Oklahoma State, SMU, Southern Miss, and TCU have all expressed interest in Moore.
— There have been many outstanding players in the Holiday Classic, and this was just a small sampling.
2017: North Little Rock (Arkansas)
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
2017: Van Buren (Arkansas)
2016: Van Buren (Arkansas)
2015: Van Buren (Arkansas)
2014: Springdale, Arkansas (Gold)
2014: Neosho (Black)
2013: Bentonville, Arkansas (Gold)
2013: Neosho (Black)
2012: Pierce City (Gold)
2012: Webb City (Black)
2011: Bentonville (Arkansas)
2010: Bentonville (Arkansas)
2009: Fair Grove
2007: Morrilton (Arkansas)
2006: Siloam Springs (Arkansas)
2005: Morrilton (Arkansas)
2004: Morrilton (Arkansas)
2003: Morrilton (Arkansas)
2001: Sapulpa (Oklahoma)