Tonight marks the start of the CYP tournament. Below is my story on the the tourney’s ability to attract some of the regions top talent every year.
While the nation spends the next month transfixed on the NCAA basketball tournament, a small gym in Port Chester will hold a tournament of its own, showcasing some potential stars of future NCAA tourneys.
Over the next six days heroes will be born, legends will be made and a champion will be crowned. And while it might not be the games that the rest of the country is excited about, the CYP boys basketball tournament has a rich history of its own.
Now in its 67th year and still often referred to as the CYP tournament, it’s officially called the fifth annual William R. Gallagher Memorial Tournament for its founder. Starting Thursday some of the best high school players in the tri-state area will gather at Our Lady of Mercy to play in a 12-team tournament.
“We’ve been very lucky,” said tournament director Joe Bellafotto. “We’ve been blessed over the years with some great players.”
Since its inception by Gallagher, the tournament has had no lack of star power. Plenty of past and present NBA players have played in the CYP tournament.
Recent participants include Kyrie Irving, the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year, Moe Harkless, the No. 12 pick in the 2012 draft, and Russ Smith, the leading scorer for Louisville, the top seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.
“Everybody wants to come back because they know all the kids who have played in the tournament,” Bellafotto said. “It’s easy for me to get the teams.”
Local talent has also had a strong presence at the CYP. Those who have participated include: Peekskill native Elton Brand of the Dallas Mavericks; Mount Vernon’s Kevin Jones of the Cleveland Cavaliers; White Plains’ Sean Kilpatrick of the U. of Cincinnati; and Mount Vernon’s Jabarie Hinds of the U. of West Virginia.
Josh James of Stepinac and Section 1’s “Mr. Basketball” Eric Paschall of Dobbs Ferry will play for Team Frenji, which won three CYP titles between 2007 and 2011. They’ll be joined by Joe Clarke, who led New Rochelle to the Class AA state final last week.
The tournament will serve as a nice way for James to test his skills before heading off to Monmouth in the fall.
“It’s a good warmup,” James said. “You get a chance to see that level you are working toward.”
James, who played for Frenji last year, said what he enjoys most about the tournament is the environment in which the games are played. The small venue puts the fans literally inches from the players.
“That’s the greatest part about it,” James said of the atmosphere. “You’re not used to playing on a small court. It really shows who has what it takes to win, who’s got game.”