This year’s Hart Holiday Classic won’t feature an out-of-state team like last year’s, which included Palmer High School from Alaska.
In its place, the tournament welcomes one of the top schools in Los Angeles in Sierra Canyon — ranked No. 3 in the first CIF-Southern Section Division 1 basketball poll.
“I’ve been good friends with their coach, Andre Chevalier for a while,” said Hart coach Tom Kelly. “He reached out to me before the season and asked if there was still an open spot. It’s great for us because a school of their profile could’ve gone a dozen different directions.”
Along with Sierra Canyon, Burbank is a new addition to this year’s tournament, which runs from Dec. 26-29 at Hart.
The other schools scheduled to participate — Canyon, Grant, Eastside, Granada Hills and Righetti — have been involved with the tournament for the better part of its 46-year history.
Righetti, which is located in Santa Maria, will have the furthest trip, though the tournament has hosted teams from Arizona and the Bay Area, along with Alaska, in the past.
“We have a really nice blend of programs.” Kelly said. “We have Southern Section schools, (LA) City Section schools and private schools.”
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Sierra Canyon’s roster includes a five-star recruit (per 247Sports) in junior shooting guard Cassius Stanley, along with K.J. Martin, son of former NBA player Kenyon Martin. Its point guard, Duane Washington, is committed to Ohio State.
“I think it bolsters the tournament having them around and hopefully we can continue to add big teams next season,” Kelly said. “It would be great for our kids to be able to play in front of some Division 1 scouts.”
In 2014, the tournament was crawling with scouts to watch Village Christian’s Bennie Boatwright, who’s now with USC and Righetti’s Cameron Walker, who’s with Stanford.
“It’s pretty neat for the kids to get that exposure,” Kelly said. “We’re hoping it’ll be similar to that this year.”
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The tournament is put on strictly by volunteers, which Kelly said can be a difficult assignment with Hart’s JV and freshman teams also in tournaments. He also works to afford Hart parents the chance to watch their kids in the tournament.
The Indians open their tournament slate on Dec. 26 against Grant. Canyon (3-7) will get the first crack at Sierra Canyon that same day.
Hart (4-3) is expected to have co-Foothill League Player of the Year Whitten Dominguez back by that point as he battles back from a shoulder injury. Kelly hopes Dominguez, who hasn’t played yet this season, can return Tuesday against Oxnard.