“This is a different kind of tournament,” observed starting North High senior guard Willie Wilson. “We are celebrating somebody whose life was taken for no reason. I’m glad we can honor him.
“He was not just an incident, but a person who was just like me and played basketball in high school just like me.” Wilson put up 25 points Tuesday night in the opening game to lead North past Houston’s Jack Yates High School.
The inaugural George Floyd Jr. Memorial Holiday Classic concluded on Wednesday at North Central University in Minneapolis as Park Center High captured the crown, defeating Minneapolis North 67 to 55. Minnesota Gopher recruit Braeden Carrington led all scorers with 33 points. North’s Wilson led North with 22.
The tournament was the brainchild of Minneapolis North High coach Larry MacKenzie, Richfield High coach Omar McMillan, and the Minnesota Black Basketball Coaches Association.
“We wanted to put on a tournament that means something and we wanted to honor George Floyd in a positive way and put a positive spin on his legacy,” said MacKenzie.
Minneapolis North, Park Center High, Orr Academy of Chicago, and Houston’s Jack Yates High in Texas, which Floyd attended, were the tourney participants.
The Minnesota Black Basketball Coaches Association raised funds to bring in the Yates High team that is located in Houston’s infamous Third Ward.
“George’s death more than hit home,” said Yates basketball coach Greg Wise. “He [George] would come to all of his nephew’s games when I coached him. He was a big supporter of his nephew.” Floyd’s nephew was scheduled to attend the tourney but his flight was canceled.
Wise said he jumped on board with the idea of the tournament right away, especially since Floyd had a connection to both Minneapolis and Houston.
“My kids are excited about being a small part of keeping his legacy alive,” he said. Wise added that he had to leave some players behind because they had COVID. They planned on visiting George Floyd Square before returning to Houston.
Yates’ senior point guard Quran McKinney said Floyd is a part of the school’s family and he hopes change comes as a result of Floyd’s murder. “All we ask for is peace and equality. We can’t have any more killings—no more Daunte Wrights. It shouldn’t be hard to do the right thing,” said McKinney.
MacKenzie said the tournament will be an annual event. “We are making a negative into a positive. George Floyd’s name will continue to influence our lives and America for years.”