The Chicago Elite Classic was created ve years ago by Tyrone Slaughter, Head Coach of Whitney Young, and Robert Smith, Head Coach of Simeon. The idea of the Chicago Elite Classic was birthed after the two basketball teams were fresh from an out of state tournament that both schools attended.
Both coaches liked the experience they exposed their young athletes to, but both coaches desired a more comprehensive experience that their players and other schools could witness in their hometown of Chicago.
The tournament would be the perfect catalyst to get multiple schools from different regions in the United States to come together and witness the majesty of Chicago for two days in a light that was not offered in the present news media, who often only associated Chicago with gun violence and lives loss.
“…That’s the beauty of our event, is to show them the city and the real Chicago and not just what you see on T.V.” said Smith.
Moreover, outside of the basketball playing aspect of the tournament, the students will be offered classes focusing on life skills that the athletes can carry with them for the rest of their lives, regardless if they make it to the professional level of the sport or not.
The tournament offers a class on financial literacy, public relations and social media. The social media course focuses on getting through to the athletes that the interactive medium can have lasting implications on their image. So, it’s important to build a positive image and post content that the athletes would feel comfortable representing them in years to come.
“It’s very important that they understand that at a young age. Because it’s so big right now, it wasn’t a big thing 10-15 years ago,” said Smith.
Furthermore, the tournament offers a branding class hosted by Nike. A representative from the company comes to talk to the student athletes about how each individual can work to build their own brand, starting now.
“It’s letting them know things that they are probably not thinking about right now; but when they left out, they were thinking about a lot of things that are at stake,” said Smith.
The tournament is also an excellent way for the athletes to showcase their talent at the UIC Pavilion against some of the stiffest competition in the nation. Each athlete gets to see how they measure up when put under the pressure of competing with the best while scouts representing different colleges are present.
“A lot of our players are prepared to be seen because a lot of college coaches come to see them play,” said Smith.
Jabari Parker, an athlete who played for Simeon and got recruited to the Milwaukee Bucks, said, “To have all the best teams across the country play against our hometown high schools gave me a sense of pride for Chicago basketball.”
While Talen Horton Tucker, a Whitney Young player who has been recently recruited to play for Iowa State Cyclones, said, “I feel like it’s one of the best shootouts in the country. Every year it just seems to keep getting better, and as a player I’m super excited to play in it every year.”
The CEC also presents an opportunity for families and avid fans of basketball to come together and watch the excellent presentation of the sport in a professional setting.
For two days, people get to watch the potential future of the sport perform excellent execution of honed skills and raw talent come to life on the court in a display that’s family friendly.
“People right now, who have attended all ve years with their children, talk about it all of the time…They can’t wait, because they know that after Thanksgiving, next weekend is the Chicago Classic,” said Smith
13,000 people attended last year and the event only continues to grow with 24 teams from different states and a variety of ages on the roster.
Smith wanted to make it clear that people should attend the CEC because it’s an opportunity to provide wholesome entertainment for the entire family and present Chicago in a way that would make anyone proud to call this city their hometown.
“It’s for the kids. We’re doing this for Chicago. That’s what it’s for and that’s why we started it. To start something in our city that we are really, really proud of and that everybody can be proud of. To make it one of the biggest things in the country that everybody can talk about,” said Smith.
To purchase tickets or for more information on the Chicago Elite Classic (Dec. 1-2 at UIC Pavilion), visit chicagoeliteclassic.com/