Following a well-attended inaugural event earlier this month, the Chicago Elite Classic basketball tournament will return to Chicago next year with the intention of making it an annual staple, Mayor Emanuel announced on Monday.
The event, which pitted six of the top high school basketball teams from the Chicago area (including Simeon Career Academy, Whitney Young High School and Proviso East High School, among others) against some of the best programs from around the country, drew more than 10,000 fans to the UIC Pavilion on Dec. 1.
“This annual event will highlight Chicago’s commitment to High School basketball, which unites our City and showcases the community and competitive spirit that make Chicago’s student-athletes so successful,” the mayor said in a statement.
Local coaches Tyrone Slaughter of Whitney Young and Rob Smith of Simeon Career Academy initially pitched the idea earlier this year as a way to showcase Chicago’s prep school talent to the rest of the country, an opportunity that Mr. Emanuel was eager to seize in hopes of continuing to boost Chicago tourism through various sporting events.
A number of Chicago-area companies jumped on board with sponsorship support, including United Airlines, ComEd, BMO Harris Bank, Loop Capital LLC and the Alliance of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs (ABLE), a locally-based group of a couple dozen African-American CEOs.
ABLE and the Business Leadership Council helped raise about half of the funds to put on the event, which cost roughly $300,000 total.
“We were honored that the City of Chicago and local businesses gathered together to help us make the event an enjoyable experience for all involved, said Mr. Slaughter of Whitney Young. “We look forward to bringing the country’s best high school teams in the country back to our great city next year.”
This year was also a prime opportunity to shine some light on Chicago high school basketball with Simeon senior star Jabari Parker (number two in the ESPN 100 top-ranked prep players nationwide) and Whitney Young junior Jahlil Okafor (number two in ESPN’s 2014 ranking) in the mix.
“We really appreciate them making the effort to come to our hometown,” said Mr. Parker, who is still yet to commit to a college next year. “I am very happy that the Chicago Elite Classic will become an annual event.”