Christmas Classic Kickoff Breakfast
It is hard for me to often imagine how the WOBM Christmas Classic, presented by Barnabas Health has grown from an eight-team boys basketball tournament in 1984 to a 7-day, 52-game monster that features a total of 32 boys and girls high school teams.
However as I stood at the podium Monday morning at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Toms River and looked at a room packed with more than 270 players, coaches and guests even I was caught up in the moment.We have come a long way. I would be lying if I did not admit that I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to do in putting on a marquee event at the Pine Belt Arena which is located on the campus of Toms River High School North and begins this weekend.
While to most it’s simply a basketball tournament to us at Townsquare Media and those who work so hard over the tournament’s seven days, the games themselves are just a part of what has become a true winter tradition.
Monday’s Tip-off Brunch has become a highlight, especially for the players who often make two and even three trips to the buffet line set up in the Clarion’s atrium. This would be a good time to tell you that General Manager Bob Van Bochove and the owners of the Toms River hotel and banquet facility have hosted this event and picked up the cost for more than 15 years. They are among the more than two dozen sponsors of the Christmas Classic and several of them joined us yesterday including Jill Hewitt of OceanFirst Bank and Greg Gerew of Vision Financial Services, Inc.
For the past couple of years Barnabas Health has been our presenting sponsor and Monday Townsquare Media Regional Vice President Greg Janoff presented Barnabas Health Vice President of Marketing & Corporate Communications Michael Slusarz with the Jim Ruhnke Contribution Award. We give that out annually to an individual or company that helps us grow the event and Barnabas certainly fits that description as they sponsor the $4000 in academic scholarships we will award later this month to players who participated in last year’s WOBM Christmas Classic.
A final note on our two breakfast speakers Monday. Dennis Adams is a former award-winning player at Manchester Township and now the high school’s principal. His message to the student-athletes was hard work on and off the court is rewarded with results.
Mike Rice is well-known by many for the scandal at Rutgers that cost him his coaching job back in April. He talked about learning from your mistakes and that those who seek to be elite have common traits. Both were tremendous and again show how far we’ve come. The first time we held the event the guest speaker was me.