As it’s been for the last 22 years, WOBM Christmas Classic week began on December 18th 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 Wednesday, December 30th.

As he does annually founder/director Kevin Williams hosted the morning event which featured all 32 teams and talked about the growth of what’s become one of the premier holiday tournaments in all of New Jersey.  As only he can the WOBM radio personality and Director of the Shore Sports Network expressed his appreciation for the 21 sponsors who contribute in some fashion especially the newly-opened See the Rim Basketball Basketball Academy in Toms River who is the presenting sponsor.  Their lead trainer Zach Leach spoke briefly about their teaching philosophy and desire to improve the level of basketball in the shore area.

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 more than 700 tee shirts that will be distributed to players, coaches, staff, etc.  They will also continue to provide the Boys MVP award which the Wintrode Family has done for all 34 years.

Ocean Trophies also goes back to year one with Scott Ritchie donating some of the hardware and doing his usual great job with the large array of trophies and plaques awarded.

Two new girls’ teams have joined the field this year with Marlboro and Middletown South replacing Freehold Township and Monroe who have opted out and made other holiday plans.

On the boys side Central Regional has returned to fill the spot left vacant by Wall. Also welcomed to the tournament were first-year head coaches Mike Pelkey (Brick Memorial), Sean McAndrew (Lacey), Matt Gathman (St. Rose) and Steve Jannarone (Colts Neck).

Among those to take the podium were Toms River Regional Schools Superintendent David Healey who proudly welcomed the teams to the tournament that is hosted by his school district and Dr. Andrew Nelson from Seaview Orthopaedic & Medical Associates wished everyone a healthy tournament.  Seaview serves as the official team doctors for the WOBM Christmas Classic and will work with an outstanding group of athletic trainers.

The $10,000 half court shot returns thanks to the generosity of the Pine Belt Family of Dealerships with locations in Toms River, Lakewood and Keyport.  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.

Serving as guest speaker as Monmouth University basketball coach King Rice, who was earned the MAAC Coach of the Year award the last two seasons as the Hawks rose to prominence not just in New Jersey but across the country.  Rice told the student-athletes that they are fortunate to have a chance to play in the WOBM CC and thanked the sponsors who have allowed the tournament to thrive while so many other holiday events have ceased to exist.

He also shared what it’s like to be the father of a 16-year old in today’s sometimes confusing world dominated by social media.  Rice talked about how progress is not and should not always be measured by wins and losses because his teams lost at least 20 games each of his first three seasons at Monmouth but yet he was praised by his athletic director, Dr. Marilyn McNeil for improving the academic standing of the program.  Soon after that he was rewarded with a contract extension and then came seasons of 18, 28 and 27 wins.  His message was that if not for McNeil’s confidence someone else might have reaped the benefits of the foundation that was laid.

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 2016 WOBM CC and are now college freshmen.  They will receive their awards at halftime of the championship games on December 30th.

Dejah Adams              (Manchester/Johns Hopkins)

Di’Avian Foster           (Neptune/Georgia State)

Lindsay Hernandez      (Brick Memorial/West Chester)

Ryann Maier               (TR North/Delaware)

Darrion Carrington      (TR North/Yale)

Mark Denis Caverly     (RBC/William & Mary)

Joseph Manso             (Brick Memorial/Salisbury)

Stephen Staklinski      (Freehold Township/Central Florida)