As it’s been for the last 23 years, WOBM Christmas Classic week began on December 17th with a Tipoff Brunch hosted by the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Toms River. More than 260 players, coaches, officials and special guests gathered inside the main ballroom for what has become one of the highlights of the tournament. Hungry student-athletes made return trips to the buffet line which featured a delicious breakfast cooked-up and served by the Clarion’s award winning staff. The Clarion has been a gracious supporter of the WOBM Christmas Classic by sponsoring and hosting the opening event which allows players to come together before they step on the court to battle for the prestigious title which concludes with the championship games on Sunday,  December 30th.

As he does annually Tournament Director Kevin Williams hosted the morning event which featured 31 of the 32 teams and talked about the growth of what has become one of the premier holiday events in New Jersey. As only he can the WOBM radio personality and Director of the Shore Sports Network expressed his appreciation for the 20 sponsors who contribute in some fashion, including InVision Eye Care who is the presenting sponsor of the 35th annual tournament.

Two of those sponsors date back to the first WOBM Christmas Classic in 1984 as The Causeway Family of Dealerships returns as the sponsor of the tee shirts that will be distributed to the players and coaches. As they’ve done since the first tournament Causeway will also sponsor the Boys MVP Trophy and this year the Girls MVP Award as well. Ocean Trophies also goes back to year one and will provide all the trophies and awards and also donates both the boys and girls championship trophy.

Presented at the breakfast was the Jim Ruhnke Contribution Award which goes annually to an individual or company that has helped the tournament grow and maintain its standing as a quality event for both participants and fans.  This year’s recipient is Nick Pagano from The Office Restaurant & Lounge and The Villa in Toms River.  They have hosted and sponsored the Coaches Seeding Meeting Dinner since 2012 in The Villa banquet facility and Williams presented Pagano with the award with special thanks for all he has done.

This year’s keynote speaker was Brooklyn Nets radio color analyst and former Wagner College head coach Tim Capstraw who was a last-minute addition thanks to Red Bank Regional girls coach John Truhan.  It did not appear there would be a guest speaker at this year’s breakfast until Truhan intervened and put Williams in touch with Capstraw last week who drove from West Orange to share some very funny stories with those in attendance.  Capstraw even took a shot at his own career as a player at Wagner when he asked if anyone knew how many points he was away from 1,000 when his college career ended.  The answer was 980 and even those not good at math quickly realized his college playing career was not a star-studded one.  Capstraw made many friends at the Jersey Shore for helping out on short notice and delivering a funny and relevant speech that was well-received by players, coaches and other guests.

Also taking the podium were Toms River Regional Schools Superintendent David Healey and Board of Education President Russ Corby who proudly welcomed the teams to the tournament that has been  hosted by his school district since 2003. 

The Pine Belt Family of Dealerships is back with the $10,000 Basketball Shot Challenge with registration to take place during the tournament at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena on December 22, 23 and 27.  Always one of the most exciting parts of the tournament Williams is thrilled to have the Pine Belt group on board again and hopes they will get a chance to hand out a $10,000 check on December 30th.  More information on page 9 of this program.

Williams announced this year’s recipients of the academic scholarship awards made possible by RWJ Barnabas Health/Community Medical Center. The awards are based on the academic performance of boys and girls who played in the 2017 WOBM CC and are now college freshman. They will receive their awards at halftime of the championship games on December 30th from Community Medical Center representatives: 

Anthony Argondizza    Brick Memorial/Clemson University

Mason Augustino        TR South/Albright College

Jack Goodall                   TR East/Rutgers University

Anthony Silvestrone   Donovan Catholic/Fairfield University

Cassandra Ball             Brick Memorial/Stevens Institute of Technology

Grace Murphy             Wall-MAST/Penn State University

Noah Smith                 Central Regional/Washington College

Bridget Tobin              Red Bank Regional/Bucknell University

 More than $85,000 in scholarships has been given out since the inception of the WOBM Christmas Classic.