Seagull Classic returns to South Jersey basketball scene

Camden Catholic’s basketball team, with juniors Uche Okafor (right) and Baba Ajike, will play in the reborn Seagull Classic this weekend at Holy Spirit High School.

Bob Falconiero remembers the novelty of the Seagull Classic in the 1970s.

“There wasn’t anything like that back then,” Falconiero said. “It was something different for us.”

Falconiero played for powerhouse Bishop Eustace Prep teams in those days. His teams won fiour state titles in a row from 1973-76.

Falconiero remembers the Crusaders playing in the Seagull Classic against New York’s Power Memorial — the alma mater of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, known then as Lew Alcindor — in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall and facing a Pleasantville team that featured 2,500-point scorer and future La Salle standout Reggie Miller at the Palestra.

Now Falconiero will coach in the reborn Seagull Classic, which will return this weekend after a 28-year haitus.

Falconiero’s Bishop Eustace team will face St. Joseph in a game at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The original Seagull Classic was the brainchild of former Holy Spirit principal Father Ed Lyons. It began in 1972 and ran at various locations until 1990.

It featured some memorable games between South Jersey teams and power programs from the East Coast and beyond. In 1981, Camden guard Milt Wagner scored 52 in a victory over nationally renown DeMatha Catholic of Hyattsville, Md., in a Seagull Classic game at Holy Spirit.

Nowadays, showcase tournaments are a regular part of the basketball scene. There’s one nearly every weekend from late January through late February in South Jersey.

But back in 1972, the Seagull Classic was a ground-breaking concept.

The event has been brought back to life by the South Jersey Basketball Summit organization, a non-profit that promotes fellowship between officials and coaches and also raises scholarship money for players.

Proceeds from this year’s Seagull Classic, which will be held at Holy Spirit, will go toward children’s autism research, youth scholarships and other charitable endeavors.

The event will feature games involving 12 teams ranked in the Inquirer Top 25, including No. 2 Camden, No. 3 Atlantic City, No. 4 St. Augustine Prep, No. 5 Camden Catholic, No. 6 Lenape and No. 8 Wildwood Catholic.

North Jersey powers in the field include defending Group 4 state champion Linden and defending Tournament of Champions winner Patrick School.

There’s two games involving top girls’ teams as well.

Here’s the full schedule:

Friday, Jan. 5

Holy Spirit vs Middle Township (girls), 6 p.m.

St. Augustine vs. Middle Township, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 6

Mainland vs. Gloucester Catholic (girls), noon

Olympus Prep vs. Scotland Christian, 1:30 p.m.

Howell vs. Sanford (Del.), 3 p.m.

Lower Cape May vs. Wildwood, 4:30 p.m.

St. Joseph vs. Bishop Eustace, 6 p.m.

Timber Creek vs. Linden, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 7

Ocean City vs. Lenape (girls), noon

Wildwood Catholic vs. Lenape, 1:30 p.m.

Winslow Township vs. Patrick School, 3 p.m.

Camden vs. Martin Luther King (Pa.), 4:30 p.m.

Atlantic City vs. Camden Catholic, 6 p.m.

Holy Spirit vs. Pleasantville, 7:30 p.m.