Since 1954, high school basketball squads have converged in Southwest Missouri to face off in the Neosho Holiday Classic. Over the years, the tournament has provided thrilling match-ups, amazing upsets, nationally ranked teams, Division I college players and NBA talent. Branco, tournament sponsor since 1998, is proud to bring another year of excellent high school basketball to Neosho, MO.
While the tournament has a rich history, it began to waiver in the 90s. At its lowest point, it included only four teams, one of which was the Neosho junior varsity. Aiming for a tournament revival and noting that successful high school basketball tournaments are driven by both business and community support, Branco Enterprises, Inc. stepped in and became the official tournament sponsor in 1998. Since then, the tournament has grown by leaps and bounds and has become one of the premier tournaments in the nation. A girl’s division was added in 2001, and the tournament achieved the goal of fielding 16 boys teams and 16 girls teams in 2009 (the 2011 edition also fielded 32 total teams).
The tournament has survived for many decades due to the dedication of the tournament staff, unwavering community support, and the quality of play provided by talented local, regional and national teams. The high caliber of play seen at the Neosho Holiday Classic never ceases to amaze. Many scouts find their way to Neosho to observe and evaluate that talent.
Teams that have recently journeyed to Neosho for the Holiday Classic are:
- Atascocita (Humble, TX)
- Sunrise Christian (Wichita, KS)
- Fort Bend Travis (Houston, TX)
- Central Park Christian (Birmingham, AL)
- South Atlanta (Atlanta, GA)
- Cypress Christian (Houston, TX)
- San Diego High (San Diego, CA)
- Thunderbird (Phoenix, AZ)
The 2011 tournament boasted two of the top teams in the nation: Sunrise Christian Academy out of Kansas and Travis High School out of Texas. Travis High School’s Andrew and Aaron Harrison were both drafted into the NBA in 2015. Buddy Hield of Sunrise Christian was selected #6 overall in the 2016 NBA draft by the New Orleans Pelicans.
The 2013 Neosho Holiday Classic included two top teams from Florida and Texas. Sagemont High School (Weston, FL) was led by Prince Ali and G.G. Goloman, who both signed with UCLA. In addition, Malik Monk (Bentonville) put on a show in Bentonville’s games and the dunk contest. Malik has signed with Kentucky for next season.
The 2014 tournament featured some amazing matchups between national and local talent. The East Newton Boys team won the Boys Black Division, and St. Joseph Lafayette won the Boys Gold Division. In the Girls Bracket, our local Neosho team won the Black Division, with Senior Chelsey Henry reaching a major milestone of 1000 points in her High School career. Springdale won the Gold Division over Bentonville on a buzzer beater.
The 2015 tournament champions, Atascocita, featured point guard Carsen Edwards, who will be playing for Purdue this season.
The 2016 tournament featured 3 high caliber teams including Dekaney HS (Houston), Maumelle HS, and Life Prep Academy Wichita, KS.
Some of the other big names who have competed in our tournament includes:
- Lourawls Nairn (Michigan State)
- Van Green (Columbia, Rice)
- Jamelle Horn (Arizona)
- Shekinna Stricklen (Tennessee)
- Biko Paris (Boston College)
- Jeremy Tyler (NBA D-League)
- Hasheem Thabeet (NBA D-League)
- Josh Freeman (NFL Quarterback)
- Malik Monk (NBA)
The tournament has become one of the biggest events in the community of Neosho, providing an economic boost for local business and sales tax revenues for the city of Neosho. While the community has reaped significant benefits from the tournament’s success, the motivation behind Branco’s involvement is the players. It is Branco’s desire to provide, local, regional, and national high school basketball teams with a fun and exciting tournament, as well as a level of hospitality that is both unmatched and genuine. The benefits for the players are diverse and numerous. For one, bringing in nationally ranked teams and players also brings in college recruiters. Hence, the players get a level of exposure that they normally would not. On top of that, the players relish the opportunity to compete with some of the nation’s best players and teams, leaving them with lifelong memories. Furthermore, the incoming teams and players are beneficiaries of unrivaled hospitality. Branco covers all of the lodging expenses for teams that have to stay overnight, and Branco covers the traveling costs for two nationally recognized teams that typically must travel a great distance to get to Neosho. In addition, Branco gives each player and coach a tournament t-shirt, and Branco supplies and staffs hospitality rooms for coaches, players, officials, and administrators. Hot meals are provided all day long, and the players and coaches are always amazed at the quality of the food and the service that comes with it.
Since Branco’s involvement in the Neosho Holiday Classic, it has become a community-wide event. Throughout the week of the tournament, the gym is packed with local and nonlocal fans, and the gym (which seats 2,400) is filled to capacity on multiple occasions. During the festive three-point and slam dunk contests, the gym is typically over capacity with guests overflowing on the sidelines and out the gym doors. Local food vendors are used to supply the hospitality rooms and feed the players, coaches, officials, etc. Moreover, local churches have volunteered to provide the players with home-cooked hot meals: another unique aspect of the tournament’s dedication to hospitality.
Even though the extent of the benefits to people from other communities cannot be measured, Branco has received glimpses into the far-reaching effects of the tournament. For example, after the 2010 tournament, Branco received a thank you note from Jeff Flanigan, head coach of the Ashdown (Arkansas) High School Basketball Team. He expressed his sincere gratitude and told us that he and his kids would have never had the opportunity to play in a first-class basketball tournament, if it were not for the Neosho Holiday Classic. He and his team were very touched by the hospitality of the Neosho community.
Past Tournament Champions