History of the Phil Brown Classic Basketball Classic
In the summer of 1991, Ed Calo and Dave Hoover (boys’ varsity basketball coaches at Westerville South and North, respectively) decided to hold a high school basketball tournament during the Christmas holidays to help promote basketball in Westerville. They envisioned a first class event held in a special venue where young-er players would look forward to playing in when they participated in high school varsity basketball. The coaches also wanted their teams to have the opportunity to play against teams that they normally wouldn’t play during the regular season. They decided to hold the tournament in Rike Center at Otterbein University, featuring an annual rivalry game between Westerville North and South High Schools. Two other schools were invited to make it a four-team tournament.
Calo and Hoover asked a group of parents from North and South high schools to plan and implement the tournament. The parents’ group successfully secured funding for the tournament banquet for all participants, lodging for visiting teams, hospitality room, trophies, commemorative t-shirts for each participant, and costs of printing the program. The parents group organized the tourna-ment banquet and manned the hospitality room.
During the first six years, the tournament flourished with Star Bank serving as the major corporate sponsor from 1991 to 1992 and Blockbuster Video from 1993 to 1996. A major turning point for the tournament occurred in 1997 when a corporate sponsor could not be found, and interest from the parents group was dropping off. Fortunately, there was enough money left over from the previous six years to fund the tournament for 1997.
Phil Brown was involved in the parents’ group that planned the initial tournament in 1991, and had remained involved from 1991 to 1997. He was also a member of the Rotary Club of Westerville, and served as Club President during the 1995-96 Rotary year.
At the conclusion of the 1997 tournament, members of the parents’ group asked him if the Rotary Club would be interested in taking over tournament sponsorship. Brown Phil Brown thought the Club would be interested and took a proposal to the Club’s Board of Directors, who approved it. The tournament has continued to grow and prosper under Rotary’s sponsorship.
In 1999, the Club initiated its Service Above Self Awards. Each participating school is asked to nominate a player, cheerleader, manager, student trainer, or any other student associated with the basketball team to receive this award. These students are recognized for service to their schools and communities in the form of a plaque, a $200 US Savings Bond, a feature article in the tournament program, and special introductions at the banquet and the tournament.
In 2000, girls’ teams were added to the tournament with an additional girls’ game added in 2004 to make a triple-header each tournament night—a girls’ game followed by two boys’ games. In 2004, Westerville Central joined the tournament for the first year that all three Westerville high schools participated at the same time. However, beginning with the 2005 tournament, a different Westerville high school would rotate out of the tournament each year so that it could retain its out of town flavor. Although Westerville South did not participate in the 2005 tournament, they hosted Westerville Central and North in boys and girls basketball games during the regular season. In 2006, Westerville North rotated out, and in 2007, Westerville Central rotated out. The school not participating in the tournament has continued to host the other two schools in regular season games continuing the rivalry among Westerville high schools.
In 2003, KEMBA Financial Credit Union partnered with the Rotary Club to help expand the tournament. In 2008, OhioHealth’s Westerville Medical Campus also became a major corporate sponsor, pledging support for three consecutive years. OhioHealth Sports Medicine continues the commitment, signing on to support the Classic for another three-year contract as Presenter, for 2022-2024. The Westerville Rotary Club would not be able to continue to manage the tournament financially without the support of OhioHealth.
2022 marks the 30th year of the Basketball Classic tournament in Westerville. In 2008 the tournament was changed to a round-robin format because of a restructuring of the high school leagues which prohibited the three Westerville City Schools from competing against one another in the tournament.
Historically the tournament has always taken place between Christmas and New Year’s, but starting in 2009 the tournament took place before the start of the regular season to help the Westerville City Schools meet their OHSAA Foundation Game requirement. Schools participating in Foundation Service Week are permitted to use one of their 5 allotted scrimmages to play a Foundation Game under all normal game conditions.
Foundation games do not count on a team’s record and participating schools are required to participate in a
community service project of their choosing. The service project that was selected by the Westerville City Schools and the Westerville Rotary Club is a food drive for the Westerville Area Resource Ministry (WARM).
In addition to Westerville Central, North, and South High Schools, over 25 high schools from Ohio have participated in the tournament over the years. Westerville North has won the tournament championship six times with Westerville South winning five times. The 1995 tournament was one of the most interesting. Carding-ton-Lincoln beat Westerville North to win the championship.
The following March, both Cardington-Lincoln (Division IV) and Westerville North (Division I) made the final four in their respective divisions in the Ohio High School State Championships at St. John Arena. Unfortunately, neither team won the state championship.
The single game and tournament scoring record was first set in 1991 by Travis Meyer of Westerville North (23 and 34 points). It was broken the next year by Charles Thomas of Westerville South (27 and 40 points). In 1998, Derrick Tarver of Akron Buchtel set a new record (32 and 52 points) which stood until it was broken in 2000 by Mike Gansey from Olmsted Falls (35 and 65 points). The current record was set in 2004 by Ben Howlett from Marietta (36 and 69 points).
Thanks to the vision of Coaches Ed Calo and Dave Hoover; the support of the athletic directors, basketball coaches, and administration of the three Westerville high schools; the commitment, dedication, and hard work of the initial parents’ groups and many members of the Rotary Club of Westerville; and the sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Westerville, and OhioHealth, holiday basketball continues to flourish in Westerville! Enjoy this year’s tournament, and we hope to see you for many years to come!
30th Phil Brown Holiday Classic set for Dec. 28 at Rike Center
The Rotary Club of Westerville’s Phil Brown Holiday Basketball Classic returns for its 30th annual presentation in 2022!
The holiday break tournament featuring Westerville’s three high schools will return for 2022 on Dec. 28 to Otterbein University’s Rike Center, 180 Center St.
As usual, the boys and girls teams from Westerville Central, North and South will compete. Rounding out the four-team showcases in 2022 will be Casstown Miami East High School.
Following is the game schedule:
Wednesday, Dec. 28
- Noon: Westerville North Girls vs DeSales
- 1:45 pm: Westerville North Boys vs Casstown Miami East
- 3:30 pm Westerville South Girls vs Westerville Central
- 5:15 pm: Westerville South Boys vs Westerville Central
Presented by OhioHealth Sports Medicine, additional business and individual sponsors are sought for the 2022 Phil Brown Holiday Basketball Classic.
Rotarians who have been a Patron Sponsor previously: This sponsorship level is being renamed “Bronze Sponsor” this year. We are assuming you will continue to participate as a sponsor and thank you for your continued support. If you have any questions, please contact Bill Tompos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis Strohm is asking for volunteers to help on the day of the tournament. If you are interested in participating, please contact him at email@example.com.
Thank you for continuing to support this event which benefits the Westerville high school athletic programs and community, and serves as a testimonial to past Rotary Club of Westerville President Phil Brown’s legacy.
We hope to see you at Otterbein’s Rike Center for the 30th Annual Phil Brown Holiday Classic on Wednesday, Dec. 28!