The holiday season at the Sports & Recreation Center brings with it one of the highlights of the CSI Athletics’ programming year, and this year the 13th Annual CSI Men’s Basketball Tournament of Heroes is set for tip-off on Sunday, December 28, helping us honor the many heroes who we lost on September 11, 2011, namely three members of the CSI Men’s Basketball family: Terrance Aiken, Scott Davidson, and Tom Hannafin.
The three former Dolphins stars died in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. Now in its thirteenth year, the annual CSI Tournament of Heroes gives us all a chance to reflect on the heroism and sacrifice of all on that fateful day, and once again allows many friends, family and loved ones a chance to get together at a home away from home. This year’s installment is set for next weekend and features four outstanding sides that will help make it one of the most competitive tournaments in some time
On Sunday, December 28, visiting squads Penn State University – Behrend takes on William Paterson University at 1pm, followed by the College of Staten Island and Misericordia University at 3pm. A ceremony to commemorate the lives of Aiken, Davidson, and Hannafin will take place in-between games one and two. On Monday, the Consolation Game will be played at 5:30pm, with the Championship Game set for a 7:30 tip. All games will be video streamed via CSI SportsNet at www.csidolphins.com/watch can be heard live on WSIA, 88.9FM, on Staten Island and at www.wsia.fm.
The three visiting teams this weekend are making their first entries in the tournament, and all three are boasting impeccable starts to the 2014-15 basketball season. In the first leg of competition, PSU-Behrend is marching in with an unblemished, 7-0, mark, and have won 12-straight regular season meetings dating back to last year, when they finished 24-5, advancing to the NCAA Division III National Tournament’s Second Round. Thie opponents at William Paterson boasted a 21-6 overall mark a year ago and return three starters, and the Pioneers are on a two-game win streak and 7-2 overall coming into play. Misericordia, CSI’s opening round opponents, are coming in with an equally impressive 7-2 overall mark, and are returning four starters from their 16-11 team from a year ago. More than anything, however, the basketball that highlights the evening serves as a backdrop for an emotional night inspired by the three fallen heroes.
“What made them special was that who they were as basketball players echoed to who they were away from the court,” commented Petosa, who coached both Aiken and Davidson and played side-by-side with Hannafin. “Tommy, even in the tough games, had that humor, that light disposition. Scott was always intense, on or off the court. Terrance was always happy, always smiling.”
Aiken, 30, was a computer consultant working on the 97th floor of WTC Tower I at the time of the attacks. Davidson, 33, a member of FDNY Ladder Company 118 was one of the first to arrive on the scene on that fateful day. Hannafin, 36, a member of Ladder Company 8 based in Greenwich Village, also perished heroically at the scene. His unit was one hit hardest by the attacks.
In January of 2002, just over four months after the attacks, the jersey numbers of Aiken, Davidson, and Hannafin became the first ever retired in men’s basketball history in a stirring ceremony during a regular season contest against Baruch College. To keep their memories alive even further, the annual tournament was brought on the following season. Petosa hatched the idea for both events and has been the biggest driving force behind the tournament since. It’s a labor of love that he is all too eager to take on.
“One of the nicest things ever said to me was by former player, Kassim Nesbitt, after we beat Baruch on the day of the initial ceremony,” Petosa said. “He said to me, ‘Coach, I didn’t realize what it was like or how important it was to be a part of the CSI family. It means so much to so many.’ I really appreciated that.”
Indeed, many have come to learn the true meaning behind the tournament, thanks to the efforts of Petosa and his support staff. This year, as in year’s past, the college will host a post-game reception for families of the three fallen heroes and alumni at the conclusion of Saturday’s games.
“We’re very pleased that the tournament is still getting support from the community as we enter our eleventh year,” he said. “Our goal when we started the tournament was to ensure that Terrance, Scott and Tom, and all of 9/11’s fallen heroes, would always be remembered in the way they would have wanted. As always, we look forward to welcoming back friends and family members for what has become a yearly tradition for us.”
This year’s tournament has a new twist. For the first time ever, the host Dolphins are looking to repeat as champs, having come away with the trophy for the first time in 2013 with a gretty, 59-58 win over Randolph College. CSI’s struggles in the tournament make sense given the fact that some of the nation’s most prestigious men’s basketball programs have chosen to take part in the tournament each year. Bill Harris, head men’s basketball coach at Wheaton College, whose team was nationally-ranked and took the 2006 tourney installment, was quick to acknowledge the effort made by CSI with their annual tournament.
“It was a great experience. CSI greeted us with a warm hospitality and we felt welcomed and appreciated the entire way,” said Coach Harris after the tournament. “We stayed near Ground Zero and it made the significance of the event so much greater. It was a real pleasure and we were happy to be a part of it.”
“Every year, the tournament is another reminder of how great it is to be a part of something special here at CSI,” said associate athletic director David Pizzuto, who normally coordinates the tournament ceremony to honor the three heroes each year. “The memories of those three gentlemen are on our minds every single minute of the tournament when we do it each year, and it becomes so much more important than basketball.”
Petosa is quick to deflect his efforts on the creation and sustenance of the tournament, yet enjoys having had the event become such an important function at the college each year. Petosa was named the Staten Island Advance’s Sportsman of the Year in 2011, and received the Joe Ryan Memorial Award in 2012, in large part due to his efforts with the tournament.
“It’s been real nice to see it become so successful,” he noted. “Our goal for the tournament was to make it into a well-received event on Staten Island. Thirteen years later it’s become such a positive thing for the community that supports it. Remembering that time and how we have persevered since then serves as a nice reminder this time of year. To remember Terrance, Scott and Tom in the process makes it even better. It’s an emotional couple of nights, and I think our kids appreciate it and everyone knows the overlying theme.”
Tickets to the 13th annual Tournament of Heroes are $5 for adults, $2 for children 10 and older and free for those 10 and under. All funds generated are used to perpetuate the tournament for years to come. For more information on tickets, please call (718) 982-3160.
Links to Tournament of Heroes Multimedia
Tribute to Heroes – Dedication Ceremony – January 26, 2002 – PART I