Today, Joel Embiid is the only NBA player in the top five in both points per game and rebounds per game. In 2011, he helped lead Montverde Academy to the semifinals of the Culligan City of Palms Classic. Soon, top-ranked prospects Cole Anthony, Scottie Barnes, Vernon Carey Jr. and a host of others will descend on this year’s City of Palms with legitimate hopes of following the path Embiid and others blazed from Fort Myers to NBA stardom.
The 46th annual Culligan City of Palms Classic returns to Suncoast Credit Union Arena from Dec. 17-22, providing Southwest Florida a glimpse at supremely talented players already drawing attention from NBA personnel. Anthony, who leads powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Virginia) into the tournament, is No. 2 in the 2020 mock draft compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.
“NBA scouts have long made a habit of visiting Fort Myers, and their motivation for coming is only getting stronger,” Culligan City of Palms Classic Executive Director John Naylor said. “With so much lottery-level talent coming through here, this is truly the cradle of the NBA.”
Five of the last nine No. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft played in the Culligan City of Palms Classic, including Deandre Ayton, who became this year’s top pick after appearing at the City of Palms twice — in 2014 and 2016. John Wall, Kevin Love, Ben Simmons, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are just a few of the City of Palms alums now starring in the NBA.
Each day of this year’s Culligan City of Palms Classic carries intrigue, with Anthony taking the court for Oak Hill Academy on Monday, Dec. 17 at 8:45 p.m. against Sarasota Riverview. Defending champion University School (Fort Lauderdale), featuring both Barnes and Carey, opens up on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. against St. Louis Vashon. The Edison National Bank Slam Dunk contest is a can’t-miss spectacle on Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 8:15 p.m. The last three days ratchet up the drama with the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship.
The event will have a local flavor as well, with crosstown rivals Fort Myers and Canterbury meeting in a game with free admission on Monday, Dec. 17 at 12:30 p.m. That comes on the heels of the North Law Firm City of Palms Premiere, which matches five teams from the main Culligan City of Palms Classic bracket with five Florida teams in a one-day showcase on Saturday, Dec. 15 at Lehigh Senior High School.
Lehigh will take part in the Premiere on its home floor and then move on to the Sunshine Series at Suncoast Credit Union Arena for a fourth straight appearance in the Culligan City of Palms Classic, giving senior shooting guard Delshawn Green the chance to join a select club of four-time City of Palms players.
Single-day preferred, reserved and general admission tickets are now on sale. Six-day preferred and reserved packages are also available, and so is a VIP parking pass. Tickets may be purchased at cityofpalmsclassic.com or by calling 1-800-440-7469. Tickets are also available Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Suncoast Credit Union Arena box office on 13351 FSW Parkway and the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall box office on 13350 FSW Parkway.
The Culligan City of Palms Classic offers discounted group rates. Call John Naylor at 239-489-1085 for more information.