The week after Christmas last year just wasn’t the same.
Sure, there were leftovers to warm up and gifts to return, but the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the much-anticipated high school basketball tournaments.
But basketball is back this year and the county’s top events — the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic, which is presented by Scorebook Live, the Mt. Carmel Holiday Hoops Classic and the SoCal Holiday Prep Classic, a top-flight girls tournament — are back, and figure to be every bit as good as before.
All the tournaments tip off Dec. 27 and run through Dec. 30.
The Torrey Pines event has a special Tip Off Night on Thursday at Torrey Pines, with La Costa Canyon vs. Francis Parker at 5 p.m., Carlsbad vs. Mater Dei Catholic at 6:30 p.m. and San Ysidro vs. Torrey Pines at 8 p.m.
“Our goal was to make sure we restarted our tournament with high quality, successful programs,” said John Olive, boys basketball coach at Torrey Pines High as well as tournament chairman for his 68-team, five-division, four-site event.
“Everyone was frustrated we couldn’t have tournaments last year. So we’re trying to give the kids as normal a season as possible this year.”
To make sure things run smoothly, Olive has trimmed his event from five sites to four.
The quality at the top is every bit as good as years past.
Perennial powerhouses DeMatha from Maryland, and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman head the National Division field. DeMatha is ranked No. 14 in the nation, Bishop Gorman is No. 19.
That division also boasts Moraga Campolindo (No. 25 in California), Anaheim Fairmont Prep (No. 54), San Jose Archbishop Mitty (No. 63), New York Iona Prep, Concord Clayton Valley, Phoenix St. Mary’s and Coronado of Nevada.
Most of San Diego’s top teams — St. Augustine, San Marcos, San Ysidro, Francis Parker and host Torrey Pines are in the National Division.
“I’ve been trying to get Bishop Gorman for years, and it finally happened,” Olive said. “DeMatha and Iona give us great teams from the East Coast.
“And I can’t say enough about the cooperation we get from the San Diego teams. We try and match up our teams against a team from out of town to give us a feel of where we’re at nationally.”
The tournament boasts four players in ESPN’s Top 100 Seniors — Rodney Rice and Tyrell Ward of DeMatha, Richard Isaacs Jr. of Coronado and San Diego State commit Miles Byrd of Stockton Lincoln, which will play in the American Division at St. Augustine. That division also includes Cathedral Catholic, Mission Bay, La Costa Canyon, Oakland Bishop O’Dowd, Bakersfield, San Jose Bellarmine and Santa Margarita.
Santa Margarita is coached by former Escondido High star Justin Bell.
Stockton Lincoln plays Oxnard at 5:55 p.m. on Dec. 27.
“San Diego State fans might want to check out Byrd,” Olive said of the 6-foot-7, athletic Byrd.
Byrd’s father, Calvin, an assistant coach at Pacific, played at Villanova and in the Atlantic Basketball Association. Miles Byrd chose the Aztecs over Washington, Minnesota, Villanova, Stanford, Cal and Rice.
Osiris Grady of Coronado, located in Henderson, Nev., is ranked among the top 100 juniors in the nation.
In addition to Torrey Pines and St. Augustine, the Senator Division at Carlsbad has La Jolla Country Day, Mission Bay, Mission Hills, Notre Dame of Arizona, Brighton of Utah as well as host Carlsbad and sensational freshman Jake Hall, who is averaging better than 23 points a game.
Rancho Buena Vista is the new host of the Governor and Mayor divisions. The Governor has El Camino, Santa Fe Christian and Temecula Valley.
The Mayor has Madison, Otay Ranch, Bishop’s and Sage Creek.
“Honestly, we were a little worried about the finances, so we’ve trimmed things a little,” Olive said.
“That being said, we should still have a great event.”
Mt. Carmel Holiday Classic
This tournament has traditionally matched San Diego teams against Southern Section teams. That’s the case again.
Scripps Ranch (10-2) and Olympian (4-2) will have to get by Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula (11-3), Linfield Christian (10-1), La Habra Sonora (8-5), Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (11-1) and Placentia El Dorado (11-2) to take home a championship.
SoCal Holiday Prep Classic
The 40-team, five-site girls tournament has two of the best teams in San Diego — Cathedral Catholic and Mission Hills — playing in the Premier Division.
The rest of the division boasts El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge (6-2), Garden Grove Orangewood (7-2), Sacramento McClatchy (5-1), Long Beach Poly (6-2), Anaheim Esperanza (6-3) and Fullerton Rosary (2-3).
Games will be played at Canyon Hills, Westview, El Capitan, Del Norte and West Hills.
Top Players at Torrey Pines Holiday Classic
Rodney Rice, DeMatha
Committed: Virginia Tech
Tyrell Ward, DeMatha
Jerrell Roberson, DeMatha
Committed: James Madison
Richard Isaacs Jr., Nevada Coronado
Committed: Texas Tech
Miles Byrd, Stockton Lincoln
Committed: San Diego State
Otto Landrum, Torrey Pines
Committed: Boston U.
Devon Arlington, San Marcos
TJ Caldwell, Texas Faith Family
Committed: Ole Miss
Brandon Walker, Texas Faith Family
Aidan Mahaney, Campolindo
Committed: Saint Mary’s
Vinny Signorelli, Victory Christian
Committed: San Diego Christian
Ryan Abelman, Bishop Gorman
Committed: No. Arizona
Jason Richardson, Bishop Gorman
Offers: Michigan St. Arizona St., Washington, UNLV
RJ Greene, Iona
Offers: Georgia, George Mason, Manhattan, Seton Hall
Orlando Wallace, Iona
Offers: Siena, St. Peter’s, Manhattan, Stony Brook
Osiris Grady, Nevada Coronado
Offers: New Mexico, Nevada, Cal Poly-SLO, Loyola Marymount
AJ Swinton, DeMatha
Offers: Georgetown, George Mason, Va. Tech, Howard
Jaeden Mustaf, DeMatha
Offers: Virginia Tech, George Mason, Howard
Cyprian Hall, Vista
Offers: Eastern Washington, Portland
Styles Phipps, Arizona St. Mary’s
Offers: TCU, Western Illinois, Hampton
Jeremiah Cherry, Arizona St. Mary’s
Offers: San Diego State, Grand Canyon, UC Santa Barbara, Hampton
Garrison Phelps, Arizona St. Mary’s
Offers: Montana, Texas State, Missouri State, Oakland
Choi Deng, Fairmont Prep
Offers: UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, CS Northridge
Jaylen Pray, Iona
Offers: Georgia Tech, St. Peter’s, Rider
Doryan Onwuchekwa, Texas Faith Family
Offers: Texas tech, SMU, Troy
Tyce Paulsen, Washington Curtis
Offers: Southern Utah, Montana, Pepperdine, Cal Poly