It all began in 1999, when tournament founder Terry Fitzwater came up with the idea of running a high school basketball tournament at Michigan State University. Fitzwater wanted to bring the best players and teams from the state of Michigan to MSU to play against top local teams and talent.
That was the idea and concept. As with all good ideas, it was one percent inspiration and ninety nine perspiration that brought this great idea to frutition.
In order to make his dream a reality, Fitzwater needed the support of the community to pull it all off. He immediately found a kindred spirit and friend in Mike Borek, a store manager for Meijer and die-hard basketball aficianado. In the spring of 1998, Fitzwater told Borek what he planned to do for a Christmas basketball tournament, and Borek immediately offered his help and financial support.
Thus, the relationship was born, and the tournament was an instant hit.
In the first year, Fitzwater paired the top team in Class A, Waverly High and phenom Marcus Taylor, against Orchard Lake Saint Mary. East Lansing and Saginaw Arthur Hill were the other two teams, as Arthur Hill had just graduated the state of Michigan's 1998 Mr. Basketball, Jason Richardson.
In the inaugural year, Orchard Lake won the tournament presented by Meijer, and then went on to win the Class B state championship. Waverly, thanks to its exposure to Breslin and the tough competition, picked up its game and went on to defeat Detroit Pershing in the state finals to win the Class A title. Taylor won the Mr. Basketball award.
In the second year, Borek and Meijer came aboard as the title sponsor of the event, and the tournament has grown steadily ever since. Since 1999, other top teams like Saginaw High, Flint Northern, Detroit Country Day, Benton Harbor, Holt and Grand Ledge along with players like Drew Neitzel, Marquise Gray, Al Horford, Anthony Roberson, Wilson Chadler, Kalin Lucas and Brad Redford have graced the tournament. Players in the tournament have gone on to play major sports at Michigan State , Florida, Purdue, Iowa, Stanford, Oakland University, Michigan as well a variety of division II schools.
In 2002, thanks to an idea from a local basketball coach, the tournament switched to a new format of having five games all on one day. The idea was to provide more of an opportunity for local kids to have a once in a lifetime opportunity to play at the Breslin Center. Today, we play six games in one day showcasing teams and players from around the State of Michigan.
Thanks to Meijer and Tournament Directors Mike Borek and Chris Wilson the tournament was established to donate all the net proceeds to local charity, which was the Sparrow Foundation. Fitzwater, Wilson and Borek were all solidly behind helping the Sparrow Foundation build and operate a children's emergency room at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, MI. To date, the tournament has raised over $107,000 for the charity. Ken Sudall, a Big 10 representative for evaluating officials and owner of Go Green Glass in Lansing, has also been a huge supporter of the tournament since Day One, and has brought the top officials in Mid-Michigan in to officiate the games. The majority of the officials donate back their fees to the charity as part of the Officials for Kids initiative.
Starting in 2012, The Holiday Hoops Invitational will benefit a newly formed foundation to be known as The Holiday Hoops Foundation. This foundation will award grants to youth sports teams and organizations around the mid-Michigan area focusing on those who serve and support under-privileged youths.
East Lansing High School now serves as the host and presenter of The Holiday Hoops Invitational. Borek, now a Store manager with The Kroger Company remains as the Tournament Director. The Holiday Hoops Invitational welcomes new supporters and thanks those who have supported the event throughout the years. The tournament philosphy remains the same and we will continue to provide players and coaches an opportunity of a lifetime playing on the Breslin Center court.