MINNEAPOLIS — Four high school boys basketball teams took to the court at North Central University Tuesday night for the inaugural edition of a holiday basketball tournament named for the late George Floyd.
The George Floyd Jr. Memorial Holiday Classic, which wraps up Wednesday night, features Minneapolis North, Park Central of Brooklyn Park, Chicago Orr High School and Jack Yates High School of Houston, which was Floyd's alma mater.
"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 of 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 played basketball and football at Jack Yates High, and basketball at South Florida before heading to Texas A&M on football scholarship.
McKenzie heads the Minnesota Black Basketball Coaches Association, which is sponsor of the tournament. Money raised will help pay the traveling expenses of the visiting teams, and other activities of the MBBCA.
The tournament is being hosted by the same university that hosted Floyd's memorial service, but it's not the only connection. One of McKenzie's assistant coaches, Brandon Mitchell, was on the jury that convicted former officer Derek Chauvin of murdering Floyd.
"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."
Eddy Barlow, an assistant coach with Houston Yates, knew Floyd and his family in Houston's Third Ward neighborhood.
"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's his first time in the Twin Cities since Floyd was murdered on Memorial Day 2020 by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, an tragic event that ushered in a new era of racial reckoning across the nation.
"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 said the coaching staff was very excited about the chance to bring the team up north to play in this tourney. Barlow said it's a rebuilding year for the Lions, but it was still important 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."
MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM KARE 11
Watch more local news from KARE 11 on our YouTube playlist: