Oakland Soldiers do it again, taking home the NIKE EYBL Peach Jam Championship 
Each July, basketball fanatics travel to North Augusta, SC to attend Peach Jam,  the crown jewel of high school summer basketball. They make the journey in hopes of seeing some of the best high school athletes put on  a show. Joining them were our very own vice president Donnie Wilkie, and executive director, John Naylor. Watching more than 20 games in just four days Wilkie and Naylor took in some of the country's top talent in the U16 and U17 categories. Wilkie, who attends many of the country's top tournaments as head talent scout for the Culligan City of Palms Classic recently shared, "The Nike EYBL Peach Jam consistently delivers top talent each and every summer. We're excited that many of these great athletes will make their way to Fort Myers in December to compete."    

This year's tournament did not disappoint. A weekend chock full of rim-rattling slams, smooth jumpers and highlight reel worthy assists came to a conclusion  Sunday with the Oakland Soldiers raising the championship trophy. Oakland defeated Team Takeover 70-63.

Oakland is no stranger to victory at Peach Jam, having won it all back in 2012. The team's victory this year marks the first time a team has won the tournament more than once. Despite a shaky start to the summer season, Oakland Soldiers has been nearly unstoppable as of late, winning four in a row to qualify for Peach Jam and then winning another four in a row during the tourney to take home the championship.

Point guard James Akinjo had seven points, nine assists and four rebounds in the title game to win the Most Valuable Player honors. He had 32 in the quarterfinals and added 17 points and five assists in the semifinals.  Additionally, 6' 10" forward Taeshon Cherry of St. Augustine buried three clutch shots from downtown and terrorized the paint with his nine rebounds to help push Oakland to victory. 

Legion of COP players in NBA continues to grow
The picks are in and seven COP players will be joining the NBA via the first round of the 2017 draft. An additional four were selected in the second round, bringing the total to 11 draftees. This year's draft selections were highlighted by Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills, Ca.) going No.2 overall to the Los Angeles Lakers. Ball was joined in the top five by Jayson Tatum (Chaminade, Mo.) who was selected No. 3 by the Boston Celtics. Their selections mark the 10th year in a row a COP player has gone top five in the NBA draft. 

Boston's selection of Tatum also marks the third year in a row the team has selected a former COP player. Tatum will join fellow COP players Jaylen Brown (Marietta Wheeler, Ga.), Jordan Mickey (Arlington Grace Prep, Texas.) and Amir Johnson (LA Westchester, Ca.) for the 2017-2018 season. Top picks Ball and Tatum weren't the only COP players who heard their names called on draft day. 

Malik Monk (Bentonville, Ark.), Bam Adebayo (High Point Christian, N.C.), Justin Jackson (Houston HCYA, Texas.), Harry Giles (High Point Wesleyan Christian Academy, N.C) and Tony Bradley (Bartow, Fla.) were all drafted in the first round of this year's draft. This year's selections bring the total number of COP draftees to 126.

Wisdom from The Whistle
The Culligan City of Palms Classic has established itself as the premier destination for high school basketball in the country. Drawing the best players and teams from around the nation year after year. However, the players aren't the only top talents at the tournament. The COP draws 50 top officials to ensure every aspect of each game of the tournament goes smoothly. At the head of it all is Kevin Hetherington, supervisor of officiating for the Culligan City of Palms Classic. 

  We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Hetherington for a discussion  to learn more about the man behind the whistle. 

Q. How long have you been a referee?
A. I began as a local ref in Michigan in 1977. After a few years of refereeing, I found myself getting more and bigger games. While in Michigan, I was fortunate to officiate three high school state championships, along with junior college, NAIA and D2 level games. I spent 25 years honing my skills in the Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana markets. Last season marked my 40th year as an official. 

Q. How did you get involved in the COP?
A. When I moved to Florida in 2003, I decided to continue to pursue my high school and college officiating career.  Some fellow officials directed me toward the City of Palms tournament and I began officiating it in 2004. After being an official at COP for 6 years, I became the Supervisor of Officiating in 2010. Prior to taking over, I had the opportunity to officiate the championship game of the COP in 2009.

Check out next month's newsletter when we discuss Hetherington's process for selecting all-star caliber officials for the COP.

Be a part of something BIG! Become a COP sponsor
Entertain your clients in class
Follett Hospitality Pavilion

Enjoy one of the dynamic features Suncoast Credit Union Arena has to offer. This
1649 square foot glass-walled venue overlooks the basketball court from the south end. Entertain clients or relax with friends as you take in all the tournament action. A wide variety of food options are available from FSW Catering  as well as beverage service from Professional Facilities Management.
Pavilion rental includes

  • Use of the pavilion (your choice of set up)
  • Forty (40) reserved seats (good all day)
  • Twenty (20) VIP parking passes
  • Complimentary admission for you staff working the event
  • Your company or organization name and logo on the LED ribbon board
  • Mention of your company or organization by the arena announcer 
For more information please contact John Naylor at:
Phone: (239) 489-1085 

Tickets are now on sale!

Founded in 1997, Edison National Bank, and its Bank of the Islands offices, is the oldest locally owned and managed independent community bank in Lee County. Dedicated to providing genuine personal service and on-site decision making, we have an undeniable interest in the future growth and well being of the community we serve. We are also proud to provide our community with the additional stability and resources of a nationally chartered bank with deposits covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Don't miss the nation's No. 1  high school basketball tournament!

45th Annual Culligan City of Palms Classic
FSW - Suncoast Credit Union Arena 

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