It was mid-December when four people, Robert Lueder, John Cifelli, Giulio Narcisi and Charles Panici, sat down in Chicago Heights, Illinois, and planned a youth basketball program that would prove fair and honest to all involved. While Cifelli and Panici constructed the rules, by-laws and constitution, Lueder and Narcisi went to work rounding up teams. Three months later, the birth of the International Small Fry Basketball program occurred and this is what has followed.
This is when it all began in Chicago Heights as the pre-tourney favorite, the Big Red of Lincoln, Nebraska, faced the Satellites of Harlem, New York. A 28-point performance by Ricky Cole earned him the game's outstanding player honor and led Lincoln to a 78-61 victory. Randy Streeton was the man behind the Lincoln team and Leroy Oatis was coach of the Harlem squad, both men providing a positive influence in Small Fry for years to come. Frank Sheridan was the coach of the first International champ.
New York returned to Chicago Heights and this time Coach Oatis had the hot hands of Timothy Shell and Rudy Pedrosa in the line-up. The group from Harlem survived the tough upper bracket and went on to post an easy 65-28 triumph over Orland Park, Ill. in the championship contest.
The popularity of Small Fry Basketball began to hit its peak in its infancy as the tournament moved from the cold and snow of Chicago Heights in favor of sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, one thing remained the same as New York was in the championship game for the third consecutive year and repeated as International champions. Dominant Ted Campbell led New York to a 67-49 win over its neighbors from East Orange, New Jersey.
This year marked a first for Small Fry when the home team from Racine, Wis., led by Dale Bostick and Kerry Glover, took the top prize from Lincoln, 53-43, in the title contest. Who will forget the people in Racine giving out warm clothes to visitors from Puerto Rico and the joy of the Puerto Rican youth experiencing its first snow.
It was back to the warm weather as Bob Heinicka's Seminole Junior Warhawks sponsored the event in Florida and Racine made a strong bid to repeat as champions. But stalwart free-throw shooting thwarted Racine, as the Liga Club of San Juan sank 22 of 23 charity stripe tries to take the first trophy back to the Caribbean with a thrilling 54-53 victory.
The Elks Lodge of Lincoln, Nebraska played the part of a generous host to the International Small Fry tournament and when the smoke had settled down, New York emerged with a 65-61 decision over the Big Red.
It was back to Puerto Rico. This time to the home of Dr. Tito Cordero, Quebradillas, and the friendly people of the Caribbean had the most thrilling of tournaments. Nearly 4,000 people jammed in to watch the title game with bongo drums and all. As the final buzzer sounded, Chicago Heights and Santo Domingo were tied, 53-53. Chicago Heights had a pair of free throws, but luck was not on the side of Bruce Green's team, and Santo Domingo captured a 68-61overtime victory. A climax of the tournament found the Chicago Heights team stranded in Atlanta, Georgia as a heavy snow storm had closed Chicago's O'Hare airport.
The International event returned to Illinois, this time to Highwood where executive board member Ozzie Mazzetta proved to be an outstanding host. The tourney had a definite Caribbean flavor as Santo Domingo tried to defend its title against a very strong squad from the Liga Club in San Juan. When the final horn sounded, the joy was with the group that made the cheer "Puerto Rico, Fra" famous in a 76-67 Liga Club victory.
The teams were again able to head south and visit Indian Rocks Beach, where the host was again the Seminole Junior Warhawks. In heavyweight boxing, the cheer had been, "Ali, Ali," but the chant for the Liga Club became "Georgie, Georgie," as Georgie Garcia paced the Liga Club to repeat as Small Fry champs. San Juan joined New York as the only team to win the International three times, and it did it by topping New York, 79-68.
It was back to the home of "Small Fry" in Chicago Heights, where an added attraction was a snow and ice storm that the people of the Caribbean enjoyed. Dick Milkie's Kenosha, Wis. team made a gallant try to change the outcome, but again it was the Liga Club from Puerto Rico as the winner and still champion, this time, 39-35.
The Racine Optimist Club, along with the Racine Parks and Recreation Department served as the co-host for the 11th annual International tournament and as always, it was a great time for the Small Fry players and fans. The people from Kenosha were sent back down the road saying, "we have to stop meeting like this," as the Liga Club won its fourth straight title and second in a row over Coach Milkie's team. 53-44.
There was a late change in the playing site for the International tournament as the shift was made to Chicago Heights, the birthplace of Small Fry Basketball. And to host coach Chuck Panici, it was a great day when Chicago Heights downed neighbor Homewood, Ill., 51-46, to become the second host team to win the title. Team co-captains Nick Aleman and Tyrone Enoch led the team to the championship, while center Keith Mikalajunas was high scorer for the winners in the title game with 13 tallies.
International Small Fry Basketball found new friends in the Boys' and Girls' Club of Greater Tampa and the folks at the Tampa Central Holiday Inn. Racine found the winner's circle for the second time in turning back the Sundevils of New York City, 70-56, in championship action at Tampa University. Racine coaches Jack Molbeck and Don Bostick announced this was their final season of coaching after 12 years. Also, it was the last coaching in Small Fry for popular Sundevil coach Gilbert Earle, who was murdered in New York during the Christmas season in an apparent armed robbery.
The Kenosha Small Fry headed up by Dick Milkie was the host as the players and fans from Florida and Puerto Rico were treated to a good old Easter snow storm. Aibonito, Puerto Rico found the greatest of treats as Edgardo Santiago and Jorge Ramos led the newcomers to Small Fry to the title with a 63-48 victory over defending champion Racine. Just a few months later, a sad note came when one of the founders of Small Fry and the International Coordinator, Giulio Narcisi, died of a heart attack while jogging in the Chicago Heights Recreation Center.
The International Tourney returned to Tampa, where Glenn Permuy and the Boys' and Girls' Club of Greater Tampa served as host for the 15th annual Small Fry Tournament. For the second straight year, a newcomer to Small Fry from Puerto Rico took home the title as Canovanas beat Kenosha, 67-54, behind 18 points from Rafael Fonseca and 12 tallies by Elmer Garcia. Torrimar topped Homewood, 50-41, for third place, while New York's LaGuardia House downed Quebradillas, 80-50, to capture the consolation title. Host Tampa won the first-ever Giulio Narcisi Sportsmanship Award.
Host Tito Castillo welcomed Small Fry back to sunny San Juan, where the Pina Coladas were enjoyed by all. Although the entertainment and attractions were plentiful, the team from Ponce put on the best show. Ponce defeated Bronx River, 58-42, to become the third different Puerto Rico squad to prevail in three years. Veteran coach Dick Milkie and Kenosha took home a well-deserved sportsmanship trophy.
Jeff McDorman and the Optimist Club of Racine served as host of the 17th annual International Tournament. The Caribbean dominance ended with an all-Midwest Final Four, with Homewood rocking Illinois-rival Highwood for the title by a 51-38 count. Terry Liddell tallied all of his game-high 11 points in the second half and Jesse James collected nine points and eight rebounds as Small Fry's new "Big Red" won the title for longtime sponsor Charlie Prentiss. Kenosha toppled South Chicago, 47-40, for third place, and Highwood and Tampa shared the sportsmanship honor.
Glenn Permuy and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Tampa hosted their third tournament of the 1980s and a first-year Puerto Rico team came home with the top prize for the fourth time in five years. Eirck Rodriguez scored 12 points and Wilfredo Cruz dished out 11 assists to ignite Bucaplaa to a 52-40 decision over Racine. Kenosha took its second straight third-place trophy with a 36-20 win over Highwood. Torrimar shared the sportsmanship award with Tampa, which earned the honor for the third time.
Small Fry expanded its horizons to the East Coast for the first time, as Joe DiVencenzo, the North Ward Center and Newark's Project Pride hosted an impressive tournament. The competition also saw a first, as third-time champion Racine became the first team in 10 tries to defeat a Puerto Rican team, Canovanas, in the title game, 74-66. John Seward led the way for Racine with 23 points. Caguas, P.R. captured third, while host Newark won the consolation crown and shared the sportsmanship award with Gary, Ind.
The 20th anniversary celebration in Chicago Heights was highlighted by one of the greatest championship game finishes in history. Lamont Cooper scored 16 points and Terrain Walker 15 to lead four players in double figures, as the Chicago Runners held off a rally by Caguas Prebac, Puerto Rico for a 71-70 victory. Prebac's Juan Carrasquillo scored a title-game record 35 points. Milbank, N.Y. took home third-place, while Newark earned the sportsmanship honor.
The Tampa Boys and Girls Club and Glenn Permuy proved an outstanding host again, as Small Fry expanded to its first-ever Friendship Tournament to promote the organization. In the big tourney, Carlos Morales' 23 points led first-year entry Fraigcomar, PR to a 64-58 victory over Young Life, N.Y.. Wisconsin also brought home some hardware, as Racine took third place and Kenosha won the consolation title.
The top prize went back to the Island again, as Ponce, PR outscored the Chicago Runners, 18-7, in the fourth quarter to claim a thrilling 50-48 championship game win at Tampa. Norbel Cruz led a balanced attack with 12 points, while Luis Cancel chipped in 11. Newark worked overtime to capture a 68-63 win over Highwood for third place and Fraigcomar defeated Southern Heights, NY, 63-40, for the consolation title.
Cameceo McCann poured in 17 points to lead Chicago Heights to its second International crown with a 42-36 victory over Highwood Small Fry. The third all-Midwest title game saw Brian Platt lead Hlghwood with 14 points. The West Pullman Runners tipped Ponce, PR, 52-35, for third place, while TIP Center, NY defeated Newark, 53-46, for the consolation crown.
In Small Fry's first-ever visit to New Orleans, Syheed Simmons scored 22 points and Angelo Barrino added 18 to lead Newark Project Pride to its first International title with a 59-48 decision over Riverside Church of New York. Kariem Thomas hit 11 at the line to lead Riverside with 15 points. Kenosha, Wis., tipped Milbank N.Y., 44-43, in overtime to capture third place, while the West Pullman Runners toppled the West Pullman Express, 62-23, for the consolation crown.
Fraigcomar, Puerto Rico outscored rival Torrimar, 12-1, in the first quarter and coasted to its second International crown with a 52-24 victory at Tampa. Hiram Ramos paced the winners with 19 points, while Juan Gonzalez chipped in 10. The West Pullman Runners bested Highwood Small Fry, 42-32, for third place behind Michael Coleman's 14 points, while Tim O'Neill hit seven of seven from the field to lead Homewood past Bucaplaa, 49-22, for the consolation title.
Upstart Racine, Wis. used its traditional 2-3 matchup zone to slow Newark and pull off a 33-28 title-game upset in the lowest-scoring title game in history. Hutch Vollendorf scored seven points to lead Racine, which limited Newark to nine second-half points. The West Pullman Express captured the consolation title with a 55-37 win over Torrimar.
Gary, Ind. used a stall to jump to a 12-3 halftime lead en route to a 44-35 title-game victory over Highwood Small Fry in Tampa. Greg Price led Gary with 15 points and Randall Swope added 12, while Jon Rotter topped Highwood with 13 points. Chicago Best notched a 64-49 victory over Kenosha in the third-place game, and Ponce Constancia toppled Borinquen Gardens, 58-57, for the consolation title behind 14 points from Roberto Santiago.
It was a great time for all as the 1996 Tournament shifted back to Newark, N. J., and as always Joe DiVincenzo and his group put on another great show. The Chicago Runners had the best time as they downed Highwood, 66-54, in overtime. The Runners became the first team to win the Friendship Tourney one year and bounce back to take the International the following.
After eight tries in the Final Four, Highwood, Ill collected the championship trophy with a 48-41 win over the Chicago Best from Marquette Park, in Tampa. Highwood was second in 1996 to the Chicago Runners, and in the past two years had posted an amazing 46-5 record.
Highwood proved again in New Orleans that was a powerhouse to be reckoned with. In its fourth consecutive visit to the finals, it won its second straight International title. This year was even more special in that the winners were presented the first-ever Bob Lueder Championship Trophy by Mr. Small Fry himself. After 30 years as Small Fry's leader and spirit, Bob retired entrusting the organization to Jeff Milkie and a second generation of Small Fry enthusiasts.
In tragic irony, Mr. Small Fry presented the first ever Bob Lueder Small Fry Championship Trophy upon his retirement from Small Fry only months prior to his untimely and unexpected death. But because of his keen and savvy leadership, the program moved forward to even greater heights in the new millennium at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando. Capping an all Midwest/Chicago Final Four was Highwood Small Fry grabbing the elusive three-peat (60-50 over the Chicago Washington Jaguars), not seen since the early days of the Liga Interclub of Puerto Rico.
Michael Green scored nine of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to pace Homewood to its first International crown in 15 years with a 44-38 decision over the Chicago Jaguars. David Posley pulled down eight rebounds and Maurice Acker hit four late clinching free throws for the Vikings (24-1). Highwood toppled the Chicago Marquette Best, 51-40, for third place and Chicago Heights claimed the consolation crown with a 40-27 victory over Chicago Robert Taylor.
Antonio Cruz scored the winning basket with 12 seconds remaining to give Puerto Rico its first International championship since 1993, as Arecibo fended off a late comeback by St. Rocco, NJ for a 46-45 win. Miguel Sanchez led Arecibo with 14 points, while Xavier Sanchez added eight points and Cruz seven. The Highwood Heat toppled Newark, 37-28, for its second straight third-place trophy and Homewood claimed the consolation crown with a 55-47 decision over Chicago And 1.
St. Rocco was outscored, 17-10, in the final stanza and denied in the championship contest for a second straight year, as Chicago And One captured its first title with a 46-43 victory. Robert Sankey scored 12 points to lead the attack for And One, while St. Rocco got a game-high 16 points from Da'Shon Barrino. Javier Gonzalez poured in 21 points to ignite Bucaplaa to a 60-44 third-place contest victory over Chicago Heights.
Desmond Wade scored 19 points and Ian Umpierre added 17 as the third time was the charm for St. Rocco in a 56-49 title-game victory over Bucaplaa, PR. in Small Fry's 35th annual International at Orlando. Two Jordan Johnson free throws with 12 seconds left gave Chicago And One a 38-37 third-place win over Homewood and Chicago Heights topped Newark, 52-48, for the consolation crown.
Bucaplaa A overcame a nine-point second-half deficit and claimed its second title with a 45-42 trimming of Homewood, as Carlos Albertorio scored 15 points and Carlos Soto 11 to lead the winners. St. Rocco topped And One, 40-28, for third place, as the same four teams advanced to the Final Four. In an all-Caribbean consolation final, Torrimar defeated Fraigcomar, 47-33.
Jorge Rivera led a balanced attack with 13 points, while Bryan Martinez chipped in 10 to lead Bucaplaa A to the repeat crown with a 49-33 decision over the Chicago Rainbow Jaguars. The Jaguars advanced to the finals with a thrilling triple-OT win over Santurce, which claimed third place over Kenosha, 47-39. St. Rocco edged the West Pullman Runners for the consolation title, 31-28.
Bucaplaa A became the third team to three-peat in 38 years, as Hamilton Rullan and Francisco Lopez each scored 14 points to key a 48-26 decision over Fraigcomar in the first all-Puerto Rican final since 1993. Ponce Constancia topped Glenbrook, 43-36, for third place, while Homewood's David Fatoki hit a three-pointer at the buzzer for a 48-45 consolation title-game win over Trevian. Longtime franchises Chicago Heights and Kenosha shared the Sportsmanship honor.
Behind a game-high 25 points from Christian Curet, Bucaplaa A overcame a 10-point deficit to become the second team in history to win four straight titles with a 45-36 victory over Fraigcomar A. It was the first repeat title-game matchup since 1978-79. Ponce again toppled Glenbrook for third place, 55-50, as Michael Sanchez scored 21 points and Chicago Heights edged out Bayamon ABB, 47-43, for the consolation crown.
Bucaplaa A used an 18-1 run to complete the first half, becoming Small Fry's first five-time consecutive champion with a 77-62 decision over Fraigcomar A, its title-game victim for three straight years. Hector Ostolaza scored 23 points and Javier Rosario hit four threes to tally 22 points for Bucaplaa in the highest scoring title game since 1977. Highwood combined the Sportsmanship Award with a 41-29 third-place game decision over Marquette Best. Guaynabo A claimed the consolation crown and Guayama earned the first-ever Barbara Green Memorial Consolation Sportsmanship honor.
In its closest title battle in five years, Bucaplaa A needed a hoop with 11 seconds remaining from Steven Gonzalez (15 points) to earn its sixth straight title with a 42-41 trimming of Chicago Heights, which had staged a huge comeback for a late lead. Tyler Ulis tallied 12 of his game-high 17 points for Chicago Heights in the fourth quarter. Ki-Jana Crawford tallied 19 points to lead Homewood to a 58-50 third-place decision over Marquette Best, while Fraigcomar A captured the consolation crown over Highwood, 39-34, behind Bruno Reyes' 14 points.
Carlos Heredia scored six of his 10 points in the final quarter, as Ponce held on after taking a big lead early to capture its third International championship all-time with a 41-37 conquest of the Marquette Best. After brother Brian Santos had won a record six straight International titles, Ryan Santos guided his Ponce squad to the crown. Javier Muniz scored 21 points to pace Bucaplaa to a 52-37 third-place decision over the Foster Pirates, and CIAPR toppled Chi-Town NBN, 62-50, for the consolation title.
After a one-year hiatus, Bucaplaa A won its seventh title in eight years, 57-45 over Chicago Robert Taylor, leading wire-to-wire after taking a 7-0 command at the outset. The record eighth championship overall was paced by Javier Santiago with 19 points and Joshua Perez and Jose Castro with nine points each. In its initial title-game appearance, Robert Taylor was sparked by Bryce Barnes with 10 points. Chi-Town toppled Homewood, 47-36, for third place and Torrimar edged out the Network Stars (NJ) for the consolation crown, 38-34.
The score and winner were the same as Bucaplaa A captured its record ninth championship with an identical 57-45 title-game score, this time over Chicago Heights. Gabriel Garcia and Jeriel Zayas each scored five of their team-high 11 points in the third quarter when the Pumas opened up a close contest en route to their eighth title in nine years. Chicago Heights was paced by Victor Quinones with 12 points. Robert Taylor gained a 59-41 third-place triumph over Juncos A behind Xavier Castaneda's 19 points, while Glenbrook toppled the Solo Pirates for the consy title, 47-36.
In a matchup of first-time title-game participants, the Windy City Outlawz used a 17-6 fourth-quarter scoring differential to claim the title. Mikey Banks scored a game-high 18 points for the Outlawz, while Darryl Thomas hit two fourth-quarter threes to finish with 14 points. Network was led by Anas Amos with nine points.
Kenosha returned to the Final Four with a 31-28 third-place contest win over Ponce Constancia, behind 16 points from T.Q. Washington, while the Virgin Islands paired up the Sportsmanship Award with a 56-31 victory over Glenbrook for the consolation crown.
In the first-ever all-Windy City title matchup, Solo Phoenix used balanced scoring let by Jamar Wilkins (nine points) and Omari Bender (eight) to topple the Marquette Best, which got a game-high 17 points from Jordan Booker.
Chi-Town captured its second third-place trophy in four years with a 62-36 decision over Ponce Constancia and also added the Sportsmanship Award.
In a unique crosstown title matchup, Ponce Constancia won its fourth championship with a 42-39 decision over Ponce Lomas, as Sebastian Lezcano hit a trio of threes to lead the way with 15 points. Fernando Gonzalez topped Lomas with 14 points.
Marquette Best toppled Robert Taylor in an all-Windy City third-place matchup and Chi-Town NBN claimed the consolation championship. Longtime officer Moe Reed had his name attached to the Friendship Tournament (won by BNB Outlawz) and first-time participant Colombia, South America earned the Friendship Sportsmanship Award.
In one of the most closely contested finals ever, Bayamon ABB rebounded from a onetime double-digit deficit to edge out Robert Taylor, 49-47, as Diego Chavez (game-high 18 points) notched a key late three-point play. Jahaziel Fernandez added 12 points in Bayamon's first title, while Terrance Ford led the Panthers with 11 points.
Kenosha combined the Sportsmanship Award with a 56-51 third-place win over Marquette Best and Arecibo won the consolation title. A newcomber, Florida was crowned champion of the Moe Reed Friendship tourney.
Jalen Carlino (17 points) buried a long three-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to give Kenosha the lead and its first-ever International championship in its fourth visit to the title contest with a 45-43 decision over Robert Taylor. An 18-9 fourth-quarter margin continued Kenosha's comeback trend.
Chicago Heights claimed third place with a 56-41 verdict over Toa Baja as Myles Walton tallied 21 points, and Chi-Town edged out Prodigy Elite, 46-45, for the consolation crown.
Terrion White hit seven fourth-quarter free throws en route to a game-high 16 points and five assists to lead Chicago Heights- the original home of Small Fry Basketball- to a 48-41 title-game victory over the Windy City's Solo Pirates in the 50th annual International championship contest on April 5. Solo was paced by Collin Wainscott (four rebounds) with four three-pointers and 14 points. The Streaks also won International titles in 1980 and 1991, the latter under the direction of the late Joe Dee. In the case of 2018, son John Dee was at the helm of the Streaks.
Keeping the Midwest flavor, Highwood toppled Kenosha for third place, 35-27, while Homewood won the consolation crown with a 36-33 decision over St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
In a showdown of Midwest rivals and the last two International champions, Kenosha bested Chicago Heights, 46-36, behind 13 points from Elijah Griffin as Small Fry moved into its second half century. CIAPR tripped up the Marquette Best, 50-46, for third place, as Bryan Huertas tallied 18 points, while Naranjto prevailed over Southern Ponce for the consolation crown, 46-35. The Best extended its current "best" string of consecutive visits to the Final 16 with a 16th straight appearance.
For the first time in history, an International Tournament was not contested, as Small Fry Basketball and Disney determined it was best to cancel for the safety of all in lieu of the Coronavirus pandemic that impacted the world.
Small Fry Basketball moves into its seventh different decade and will make its 22nd visit to ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World(R) Resort as its tournament home, as teams from throughout the world will vie for the 52nd Small Fry International championship.
2018 International Runner-Up- Solo Pirates