By Steve Robinson | November 23, 2018 - 8:06 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite

I realize the high school basketball season is just getting underway, but a local event where fans of round ball really get their fix, the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament, known to locals by the nickname, “The Classic,” will be here before you know it. The annual Boys’ tournament will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

The Classic will run Wednesday, Dec. 26 through “Championship Day” on Saturday, December 29. fans can catch games at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus, Normal Community High School, Normal Community West High School, and at a venue making a return appearance after being absent for a while, Bloomington High School (more about BHS’ return to “The Classic” shortly).

Dave Oloffson, vice president of Classic Tournament, Inc., the non-profit group which has operated the tournament since 1995, said there will be nine new teams coming into the tournament this year, and that ticket sales began online earlier this month at the event’s website,

Oloffson said there are a couple of benefits to buying an all-tournament pass in advance of the event. First, he explained, “Doing ticket purchases in advance is cheaper than if you went to every session, obviously, and paid the per session price. Buying an all-tournament pass gets you into every game of the tournament – boys’ and girls’, all 128 games – you could see bits and pieces of each one.”

“Secondly, for each tournament pass you purchase online, we will donate $5 back to the participating team of your choice,” Oloffson said, encouraging fans to consider such purchases. “It’s a good fundraiser for those teams. If 20 people go online and each buy a pass, that starts to add up to help the school.”

Oloffson said the silent auction featuring items autographed by former “The Classic” players who have gone on to play in the pros will be back and available at NCHS and Shirk Center. Monies raised at the silent auction are used for the tournament’s scholarship fund, he reminded. The scholarship has been part of the tournament since 2006, Oloffson reminded, adding the Tournament’s organizing committee will award four $1,500 scholarships this year. High school seniors playing the tournament this year will be eligible for and have the chance to apply for those scholarships.

Players wishing to apply for the scholarships, in addition to being on a team’s active roster, must write an essay, list their extracurricular activities in school, and meet a specific grade point average requirement, Oloffson said.

“We’re always thankful to our venues who host our tournament,” Oloffson said. “I don’t think they get enough credit. It takes a lot because we have to have six courts at four different venues. The logistics and scheduling didn’t work at Bloomington Central Catholic this year so Bloomington High School will host girls’ tournament games.” BHS has been a tournament venue for “The Classic” before, the last time being in 2002. Before that, BHS was a host venue twice previously, in 1999 and 2001.

“BHS is a great place to watch basketball,” Oloffson said. “It gives you a chance to experience watching a game in an old-time, old school fieldhouse atmosphere. You don’t get that with newer schools nowadays. We’re excited about that.”

Tournament Hasn’t Run In Consecutive Years: If folks reading this were around in this area in the mid-to-late 1980s and can’t recall this tournament being active at that time, you’ve got good memories for events. Oloffson said there were no “Classic” tournaments from 1986-1989, but said he isn’t aware of the reason for that.

This will not just be the 40th year for the boys’ part of the tournament, but also the 23rd year for the girls’ tournament, as well as the 20th year State Farm Insurance has been involved. This will also be the 17th straight year The Classic will also have “The Ron Knisley Memorial Shootout,” featuring local and area Special Olympics basketball teams, each getting in some games to get their seasons started in preparation toward a State Tournament held on Illinois State University’s campus in March.

Next week, I will have some more information on the tournament which ought to get fans a little more ready for the event as the dates get nearer.

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