Four high school boys’ basketball teams competed in the inaugural edition of the George Floyd Holiday Basketball Tournament at North Central University on Tuesday night.
Minneapolis North, Park Central of Brooklyn Park, Chicago Orr High School, and Houston’s Jack Yates High School, which was Floyd’s alma mater, are among the teams competing in the Memorial Holiday Classic, which concludes Wednesday night.
“I wanted to celebrate the positives of George Floyd, not just that nine minutes and 29 seconds,” North High Coach Larry McKenzie told KARE 11.
“The young star athlete that navigated the urban community in Houston, despite many challenges that might have been in his life, and still managed to finish high school and win a scholarship to play Division 1 ball.”
Floyd attended Jack Yates High School and played basketball in South Florida before transferring to Texas A&M University on a football scholarship.
McKenzie is the president of the Minnesota Black Basketball Coaches Association, which is the tournament’s sponsor.
The funds earned will be used to cover the costs of visiting teams’ travel and other MBBCA activities.
The competition is being held at the same university where Floyd’s funeral service took place, but that isn’t the only link.
Brandon Mitchell, one of McKenzie’s assistant coaches, served on the jury that found former officer Derek Chauvin guilty of Floyd’s murder.
“The name of George Floyd will be with me for the rest of my life, and the lives of the young people listening. He will always be in the history books.”
Floyd and his family lived in Houston’s Third Ward neighbourhood, and Eddy Barlow, an assistant coach with Houston Yates, knew them.
“I was younger than him, but he was one of those we looked up to as far as athletics. He was always supportive of the young guys. He would come and encourage them,” Barlow recalled.
It’ll be his first visit to the Twin Cities since Floyd was shot and killed by former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day 2020, a devastating occurrence that launched in a new age of racial reckoning across the country.
“It really hit hard, really hit home, to wake up and see that video being played over and over again everywhere I looked. I remember thinking, ‘How can this be? How can this be Perry’?” Barlow remarked.
He stated that the coaching staff was ecstatic at the prospect of taking the team up north to compete in this tournament.
The Lions are in the midst of a rebuilding season, according to Barlow, but it’s still vital to be here.
“We feel like we represent George Floyd because we are George Floyd. They are George Floyd,” he said, gesturing toward the team.
“They are walking the same hallways that George walked. They are living in the same projects George came up from. It could’ve been any of us.”