Photo by Jann HendryNothing separates true contenders from pretenders in high school basketball like a big time tournament.
Tournament MVP Stanley Johnson (left) and Mater Dei knocked off host Bishop Gorman in the final of last season's Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas.
And there are plenty to choose from this season as organizers from Florida to Hawai'i have courted elite programs over the offseason in an effort to stack their respective brackets.
Here's a look at nearly three dozen tourneys fans will flock to this winter. MaxPreps will continue its look-ahead to the 2013-14 season Thursday with a breakdown of top showcase events.
The Majors (listed chronologically)
State Farm Tournament of Champions
Nov. 26-30 – Multiple Locations – Washington, Ill.
Quick take: This early-season colossus isn't a true bracketed tournament, but teams are placed in four separate divisions and play round robin to determine a champion in each. Past participants include Anthony Davis, Anthony Bennett, Nerlens Noel and Andrew Wiggins.
Uftring Auto Group Invitational: Capital Christian (Sacramento, Calif.), Central (Champaign, Ill.), Fort Zumwalt North (O'Fallon, Mo.), Southeast (Ill.)
Team Works National Classic: Christian Brothers (St. Louis, Mo.), No. 8 La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.), St. Louis Christian Academy (St. Louis, Mo.), No. 20 Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.)
St. Francis Shootout Series: Brookfield Central (Brookfield, Wis.), Illinois Valley Central (Chillicothe, Ill.), Manual (Peoria, Ill.), Marquette Catholic (Michigan City, Ind.), North (Milwaukee, Wis.), Richwoods (Peoria, Ill.), Rockridge (Taylor Ridge, Ill.)
City of Washington Invitational: Bonneville (Idaho Falls, Idaho), Glenwood (Chatham, Ill.), North Chicago (Ill.), O'Fallon (Ill.), Parkview Baptist (Baton Rouge, La.), Proviso East (Maywood, Ill.), Trinity (Euless, Texas), Washington (Ill.)
Dec. 17-21 – 'Iolani High School – Honolulu, Hawai'i
Quick take: Unique opportunity for teams from Oahu to take a crack at some of the nation's top programs. It rarely goes well for the local squads but the annual influx of stateside talent is more than enough to keep fans entertained. Teams from China and Japan add additional flavor to the tournament this year.
Participating teams: Fuxin New Star (China), Hamilton (Milwaukee, Wis.), 'Iolani (Honolulu, Hawai'i), Kailua (Hawai'i), Kaiser (Honolulu, Hawai'i), Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawai'i), Moanalua (Honolulu, Hawai'i), Mt. Vernon (N.Y.), Oroku (Japan), Radford (Honolulu, Hawai'i), Roman Catholic (Philadelphia), St. Rita (Chicago), West Linn (Ore.), Westchester (Los Angeles), No. 16 White Station (Memphis, Tenn.)
Dec. 18-22 – Bishop Gorman High School – Las Vegas, Nev.
Quick take: In just its second year, the Tarkanian Classic has ascended into elite company when it comes to high school hoops tourneys. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) beat host Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) in last season's final and both will be back this December along with defending national champ Lone Peak (Highland, Utah).
Platinum Division participants: No. 6 Bishop Gorman, Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland, Calif.), Bountiful (Utah), Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.), Clark (Las Vegas), Constitution (Philadelphia), Durango (Las Vegas), El Camino Real (Woodland Hills, Calif.), Lone Peak, Long Beach Poly (Calif.), No. 5 Mater Dei, Modesto Christian (Modesto, Calif.), Pinnacle (Phoenix, Ariz.), Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.), Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch, Colo.)
Gold Division: Ambridge (Pa.), Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.), Chaparral (Las Vegas), Cheyenne (North Las Vegas, Nev.), Dominguez (Compton, Calif.), Faith Lutheran (Las Vegas), Foothills Christian (El Cajon, Calif.), Legacy (North Las Vegas, Nev.), Lynwood (Lynwood, Calif.), Muir (Pasadena, Calif.), Orem (Utah), San Bernardino (Calif.), ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Timpview (Provo, Utah), Upper St. Clair (Pa.), Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah)
Prep Division: Atlanta Sports Academy (Ga.), No. 2 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), No. 8 La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.), Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.), Our Savior New American (Centereach, N.Y.), No. 7 Prime Prep (Dallas), Trinity International (Las Vegas)
Culligan City of Palms Classic presented by Cadillac
Dec. 18-23 – Bishop Verot High School – Fort Myers, Fla.
Quick take: The undisputed gold standard of high school basketball tournaments for nearly two decades, the COP is simply a magnet for elite programs and players. Five preseason Xcellent 25 teams are in the 16-team tournament field and six others were penciled in to the Top 50. Defending champion Montverde Academy (Fla.) will be favored to repeat. That hasn't happened in Fort Myers since Westchester (Los Angeles) went back-to-back in 2000 and 2001. With LeBron James in Miami and his alma mater in the field, organizers have started a #BringTheKing campaign on Twitter.
16-team tournament field: Bishop Verot (Fort Myers, Fla.), Denver East (Denver, Colo.), Greenforest (Decatur, Ga.), Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Milton (Ga.), No. 1 Montverde Academy, Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia), Norland (Miami, Fla.), Oak Ridge (Orlando, Fla.), No. 11 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.), No. 10 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.), St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio), No. 17 Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.), No. 9 Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.), Yates (Houston)
Signature Series teams: Barking Abbey (London, England), Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), Oldsmar Christian (Oldsmar, Fla.), No. 20 Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.)
Sunshine Series teams: Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.), IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Fla.), Port Charlotte (Fla.), Sagemont (Weston, Fla.), Tift County (Tifton, Ga.)
Dec. 19-23 – Richland Northeast High School – Columbia, S.C.
Quick take: Gary Fulmer gets it done every year for the high school hoops fans in Columbia. Headlined by Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), the tournament director reeled in three preseason Xcellent 25 picks and would have had a fourth if sophomore sensation Harry Giles were healthy. Two other 2016 stars – Carlisle (Martinsville, Va.) 7-footer Thon Maker and Hammond (Columbia, S.C.) guard Seventh Woods – will be major attractions.
Classic participants: Aquinas (Augusta, Ga.), Archbishop Carroll (Radnor, Pa.), No. 18 Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.), Blanche Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.), No. 25 Carlisle, Keenan (Columbia, S.C.), Lower Richland (Hopkins, S.C.), Luella (Ga.), Morgan County (Madison, Ga.), Mullins (S.C.), No. 4 Oak Hill Academy, Richland Northeast (Columbia, S.C.), South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.), Spring Valley (Columbia, S.C.), St. Frances Academy (Baltimore), Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.)
Carolina Challenge participants: Athens Christian (Athens, Ga.), Dreher (Columbia, S.C.), Effingham County (Springfield, Ga.), Hammond, Northside Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.)
Dec. 26-28 – Broughton High School – Raleigh, N.C.
Quick take: It's always a diverse field in Raleigh with everything from local public schools to New England post-graduate programs in the mix. Often a showcase for players headed to the state's top college teams.
Participating teams: Apex (N.C.), Broughton (Raleigh, N.C.), No. 25 Carlisle (Martinsville, Va.), Clayton (N.C.), Garner Magnet (Garner, N.C.), Hammond (Columbia, S.C.), HCYA (Houston), Kinston (N.C.), Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Fla.), Middle Creek (Apex, N.C.), Moss Point (Miss.), Sanderson (Raleigh, N.C.), Trinity Christian (Fayetteville, N.C.), No. 17 Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.), Wilbraham & Monson Academy (Wilbraham, Mass.), Word of God Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.)
MaxPreps Holiday Classic
Dec. 26-30 – Rancho Mirage High School – Palm Springs, Calif.
Quick take: Part of a massive 120-team event encompassing multiple locations in and around Palm Springs, the Classic's Invitational Division will feature one of the most diverse and competitive brackets in the country. Teams from eights states outside of California will try an unseat gritty defending champion Westchester (Los Angeles).
Invitational Division participants: Alemany (Mission Hills, Calif.), American Fork (Utah), Bellaire (Texas), Bellevue (Wash.), Beverly Hills (Calif.), Calabasas (Calif.), Capital Christian (Sacramento, Calif.), Catalina Foothills (Tucson, Ariz.), Christian Brothers (St. Louis, Mo.), Columbia Christian (Portland, Ore.), De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), Etiwanda (Calif.), Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), Issaquah (Wash.), Jackson (Mill Creek, Wash.), JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), Leuzinger (Lawndale, Calif.), Long Beach Poly (Calif.), Orangewood Academy (Garden Grove, Calif.), St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio), Sunnyslope (Phoenix, Ariz.), Tampa Catholic (Tampa, Fla.), Wenonah (Birmingham, Ala.), Westchester
Beach Ball Classic
Dec. 26-31 – Myrtle Beach Convention Center – Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Quick take: The champion at the Beach Ball Classic has finished ranked nationally each of the past five seasons. Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) returns to Myrtle Beach after winning it in 2010. Luke Kennard of Franklin (Ohio) put on a show at the tournament last year and his return is highly anticipated.
Participating teams: Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio), Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Bishop O'Connell (Arlington, Va.), Bullis (Potomac, Md.), Father Henry Carr (Ontario, Canada), Franklin, Hough (Cornelius, N.C.), Madison Memorial (Madison, Wis.), No. 22 Miller Grove, Mullins (S.C.), Myrtle Beach (S.C.), Norcross (Ga.), No. 19 Northland (Columbus, Ohio), Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.), Socastee (Myrtle Beach, S.C.), Spring Valley (Columbia, S.C.)
Les Schwab Invitational
Dec. 27-30 – Liberty High School – Hillsboro, Ore.
Quick take: Lake Oswego became the first local team to win the event in almost a decade last December but an in-state repeat seems unlikely with Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and Whitney Young (Chicago) in the field. Rainier Beach (Seattle) is also loaded and will have its biggest opportunity of the season to make a national statement in Hillsboro.
Participating teams: Beaverton (Ore.), No. 6 Bishop Gorman, Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.), Churchill (Eugene, Ore.), Clackamas (Ore.), Grant (Portland, Ore.), Jefferson (Portland, Ore.), Jesuit (Portland, Ore.), Lake Oswego, Rainier Beach, South Eugene (Eugene, Ore.), Sunset (Portland, Ore.), Tigard (Ore.), Timberline (Lacey, Wash.), West Linn (Ore.), No. 9 Whitney Young
Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions
Jan. 16-18, 2014 – JQH Arena – Springfield, Mo.
Quick take: Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) stunned Montverde Academy (Fla.) in last year's final and both are back in 2014. Brad Beal, Tyler Hansbrough, Lamar Odom, Kyle Singler and John Wall are just a few of the greats that have taken the floor at Bass Pro in past years.
Participating teams: Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), Kickapoo (Springfield, Mo.), No. 1 Montverde Academy, No. 11 Paul VI, Village Christian (Sun Valley, Calif.), Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.), No. 16 White Station (Memphis, Tenn.), Willard (Mo.)
Other top tournaments
McDonald's Texas Invitational
Nov. 21-23 – Various Locations – Pasadena, Texas
Rumble on the Ridge
Nov. 28-30 – Mustang Arena – Forrest City, Ark.
Fantasy of Lights Basketball Tournament
Nov. 29-30 – Multiple Locations – Wichita Falls, Texas
Christian Cup presented by Arizona Christian University
Dec. 3-5 – Gilbert Christian High School – Gilbert, Ariz.
Great Western Shootout
Dec. 5-7 – Orem High School – Orem, Utah
Arizona Catholic Invitational
Dec. 12-14 – St. Mary's High School – Phoenix, Ariz.
Mission Prep Christmas Classic
Dec. 18-21 – Mission Prep School – San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Hawk Kreul Classic
Dec. 19-21 – Coral Springs City Gym – Coral Springs, Fla.
King of the Bluegrass
Dec. 19-23 – Fairdale High School – Fairdale, Ky.
Proviso West Holiday Tournament
Dec. 21-31 – Sports Arena Main Gym – Hillside, Ill.
Dec. 26-28 – Birdville Coliseum – Haltom City, Texas
Under Armour Holiday Classic
Dec. 26-30 – Torrey Pines High School – San Diego, Calif.
VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge
Dec. 26-31 – Mountain View High School – Mesa, Ariz.
Mirabito STOP-DWI Holiday Classic
Dec. 27-30 – Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena – Binghamton, N.Y.
Kingdom of the Sun
Dec. 27-30 – Vanguard High School – Ocala, Fla.
Wild Wing Café High School Hoops Classic
Dec. 27-30 – Ardrey Kell High School – Charlotte, N.C.
Dec. 27-30 – Gaston Day School – Gaston, N.C.
National Prep Classic
Dec. 27-31 – St. Joseph's High School – Santa Maria, Calif.
Jan. 24-25 – City College – New York
Montverde Academy Invitational
Jan. 30-Feb. 1 – Montverde Academy – Montverde, Fla.