Set against the backdrop of the holiday season for the 17th consecutive year, the College of Staten Island is getting set to celebrate another installment of the Tournament of Heroes this Friday and Saturday. The men’s basketball team will be welcoming in three teams that boast a winning tradition when they enter The Tank. The Dolphins will play Bates College on Friday at 7:30pm, proceeding a 5:30pm game between Tufts University and Gwynedd-Mercy University. In-between games, CSI will honor heroes fallen from 9/11, among them former Dolphins Terrance Aiken, Scott Davidson, and Tom Hannafin.
Known for the nationally prominent stature of some of the teams they welcome in each year, CSI has been without a championship in their hosted tourney since 2015 and will look to grab back the title. They will have their work cut out for them this weekend as all three visiting teams will have a very good chance of taking the trophy. More than basketball, the tournament has a long-standing history of allowing folks the chance to reflect on the heroism and sacrifice of all on September 11, and once again allows many friends, family and loved ones a chance to get together at a home away from home. After Friday’s games, the action continues on Saturday, with the Consolation Game played at 1pm, and the Championship Game set for a 3pm tip. All games will be video streamed via CSI SportsNet at www.csidolphins.com/CSISportsNet.
All three visiting teams this week are making their first entries in the tournament. In the first leg of competition, Gwynedd-Mercy will enter as the hottest team in the tournament, having won four out of their last five while holding an 8-4 overall record. They will face off against Tufts University, coming in at 4-5 overall but winners of two of their last three.
CSI’s first-round opponent will be Bates College. Bates Athletic Director Jason Fein, was a former Associate Athletic Director at CSI when CSI introduced the Tournament in 2002, later serving as CSI’s AD from 2004-06. The Bobcats are 2-7 this season and are looking to overturn a five-game losing skid. It will be the first meeting between the two teams in school history. More than anything, however, the basketball that highlights the evening on Friday serves as a backdrop for an emotional day inspired by Aiken, Davidson, and Hannafin, the three fallen heroes to whom the Tournament serves to honor.
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 (13), Davidson (15), and Hannafin (25) 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. Former Head Coach Tony Petosa hatched the idea for both events and has been the biggest driving force behind the tournament since. Current CSI Head Coach T.J. Tibbs played in a pair of Tournament of Heroes as a player with CSI, and now as a coach he certainly understands the poignancy of the event.
“This tournament is about family, community and tradition,” Tibbs said. “These are also some of the pillars of our program. I loved the tournament as a player and I have nothing but the same excitement for it as a coach.”
Indeed, many have come to learn the true meaning behind the tournament, thanks to the efforts of the College of Staten Island 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 Friday’s games.
Of course, there is also some excellent basketball to take in. “When we first started the tournament, we thought it would be nice to have it going for five years or so,” said Petosa, who took part in the Tournament last year as a fan, and who continues to engage the community in giving back to the Tournament each year. “It’s become a really nice event on Staten Island and we prided ourselves on bringing nationally-recognized programs in from around the country to make this a high-quality tournament. I’m glad to see that history continue.”
Tickets to the 17th annual Tournament of Heroes are $5 for general admission and all funds generated are used to perpetuate the tournament for years to come. For more information on tickets, please call (718) 982-3160.