For the first time since first tipping off in 1983, the ‘Iolani Classic will not be played in 2020.
The prestigious preseason prep basketball tournament made the announcement on Wednesday that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the December tourney was canceled but plans to return in 2021.
“It was definitely disappointing news, tough news. Not only for the coaches, but for the players that have an opportunity to play in such a prestigious tournament. One of the best high school tournaments around the country. But at the end of the day I think after meetings with the committee, ‘Iolani School and Nike, the best decision and the safest decision to make was to cancel for the safety and health precautions of everybody involved in the tournament,” said ‘Iolani head coach Ryan Hirata.
Affectionately known as ‘The Classic,’ the tournament annually features some of the premier boys’ and girls’ basketball programs in the country. Its participants over the years include Kevin Durant, Jerry Stackhouse, Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and R.J. Barrett. Hirata has not only coached in the tournament, but he played in it as well.
“As a player that had an opportunity to play in it with my teammates back in the day at ‘Iolani and played against teams like Montrose Christian, Fairfax, those are the lifelong memories that you will always remember to play in a tournament like that,” Hirata said. “Being able to score on a guy that will end up playing in the NBA, I think that’s why this tournament is so special is because you’re not only bringing any mainland teams, you’re bringing the top tier mainland teams from around the country to play against the local teams which adds an extra feel to it. The atmosphere of having just 1,500 seats at Iolani School adds to it because it’s exclusive. The ‘Iolani Classic provides memories that last a lifetime.”
Although Hirata is disappointed that the annual tradition won’t take place this winter, he is excited to see what the Classic can offer with a reset of sorts, as tournament staff will essentially have two years to gameplan.
“It’s exciting. In 2021 we should have a great mainland field again. A great local field again, but I think it’s just the appreciation of having a tournament like this is what makes it so special for us at ‘Iolani School and to share it with the local community and to have it both boys and girls is an outstanding thing to have and we’re just appreciative to represent Hawaii and play in a tournament such as this one.”
Oak Hill Academy of Virginia won last year’s championship with a 76-65 victory over Wasatch Academy (Utah). Mater Dei of California won the girls championship.
As of now, the Hawaii High School Athletics Association has targeted an August start for fall sport practices. If state, federal, and county guidelines permit and the schedule can stay intact, it’s expected that basketball seasons will get underway in mid-November.
“I’m confident that we will have seasons,” Hirata said. “Maybe it will be condensed and shortened, not as per usual but I hope to return back to play so that we can get that competitive nature back in the state of Hawaii. The HHSAA has been working really hard but I think everybody has to do their part. It’s going to be a team effort to do this right and to do this safe.”