Basketball aficionados are invited to lace up their sneakers, sign-up, and participate in the second annual Julius Tharpe Memorial Basketball Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 13 at the St. Cloud Civic Center. The action begins at 8 a.m. and the tournament is free for spectators, with concessions and raffle prizes available.
The tournament will feature five on five full-court games of 30 minutes in length. There is a running clock except for the last minute of each half. The tournament is open to adult teams with a minimum roster age of 18. Entry is $250 per team and a cash prize will be awarded to the winning team. Each team will be guaranteed at least two games.
Tharpe was a long-time coach and basketball official in Osceola County, having coached as an assistant of the girls’ basketball team at Osceola High and also assisted the Gateway boys’ basketball team under Bob Barker. After leaving the coaching profession, he spent many years officiating both basketball and volleyball and ran numerous basketball clinics and camps for Central Florida Youth.
Originally the tournament was designed as a fundraiser to help defray medical costs for his lung cancer treatment, but when the disease took his life in 2019, the tournament was refocused to become a memorial to Tharpe’s legacy.
“It started as a medical fundraiser to help defray Julius’ medical expenses,” Tournament Director Tommy Billiteri said. “When he passed before the first tournament could be played, it was decided to switch the focus of the event. Julius was such an important part of the Central Florida youth basketball scene and we wanted to find a way to honor him.”
Four teams participated in the first tournament and the 2020 event was canceled because of Covid. This year’s event will be capped at eight teams, but Billiteri has ambitions to make the tournament a lot bigger in the future.
Those dreams started with the establishment of the Julius Tharpe Memorial Foundation to help fund and sponsor youth basketball players who want to participate in camps and leagues but were unable to do so because of family finances. “We eventually want to make sure that kids who want to go to camps or play in leagues are able to do so regardless of their family’s ability to pay,” Billiteri said. “We also want to help organizations with equipment costs.”
The eventual goal is to create and run a Julius Tharpe Camp in Central Florida.
“He spent his life dedicated to the sport of basketball and Central Florida’s youth,” Billiteri added. “This tournament was created to not only honor his legacy but to further his mission of teaching and coaching basketball to kids.”
Persons interested in entering a team should contact Billiteri at 321.443.4414 or email him at Tommybilliteri@gmail.com.