The Kreul. More than a tournament, the Kreul Classic is a commitment to youth driven by community volunteers with a love for the game of basketball. Widely recognized as one of the country’s premier prep tournaments, the top-caliber competition also serves as the fundraising vehicle for the organization’s academic scholarship program.
More than 30 years ago, a handful of men with burgeoning families saved the fledgling Coral Springs Basketball Club both to give their kids a place to play and to recapture some of their youth while playing in the men’s league.
These forerunners of Coral Springs hoops served as coaches, athletic directors, referees and fundraisers. They dutifully fulfilled this labor of love, relishing in watchingthe kids benefit from their magnanimity. Among these men were Jim Kreul, Jim Reilly and many of the the Kreul Classic board of directors.
On a fateful day in 1990, Jim Kreul succumbed to a fatal heart attack at age of 41 while playing in the CSBC men’s league. Kreul’s gargantuan size and deep bass voice were matched by his prodigious generosity and wealth of good humor. The gentle giant and father of five was a fixture in local basketball; when he wasn’t playing he was coaching his kids, watching or traveling around the state for tournaments. Kreul’s premature passing left a void in the hearts of many in the Coral Springs community.
Jim Reilly was a chief fundraiser and board member of the CSBC as well as president of the Gold Coast AAU for 12 years and hosted national AAU tournaments here in South Florida multiple times.
Within a few weeks of Kreul’s passing, Reilly took on the challenge of paying tribute to his friend’s life by launching a high school basketball tournament – an idea he and Kreul had long envisioned.
The Kreul also honors the memory of Kerry Lynn Tooze, another former CSBC player who lost her life in an automobile accident. K.L. was a charter member of the girls’ league and varsity player at both Coral Springs and Taravella high schools who competitively played the game “for the fun of it.”
The inaugural Kreul turned out to be a fitting salute to the man memorialized by the tournament. Host school Taravella captured the very first girls’ championship, punctuated by Mr. Kreul’s daughter Kolleen, claiming the K.L. Tooze trophy honoring the most valuable player. Kolleen scored 18 points in the final quarter to lead a 22-6 run to beat Miami American, 66-53.
“It was a hard time in my life,’’ Kolleen said in a Sun Sentinel article on the 10th anniversary of the tournament. “The way we lost my dad was difficult. This tournament is a reflection to my dad and what he meant to the community. I wanted to come out of the tournament to be the first winner.”
What came together in just a couple of months became an instant success. Twenty-six years later, the tournament’s all volunteer, board of directors remains as committed as ever, meeting all challenges to keep the tournament vibrant and thriving. The board meets throughout the year under the diligent direction of Reilly to discuss the myriad tasks needed to organize one of the premier tournaments in the country.
Plenty of high-profile sports personalities have lent their support to the Kreul, starting with legendary coach Chuck Daly during his stint at the helm of the first Olympic Dream Team in 1992. Following Daly’s lead were Lou Carnesecca, Brian Hill, Billy Donovan, Mike Jarvis, John Salley, Tim Hardaway, Tubby Smith, Kevin Loughery, Jack Ramsey, Tony Fiorentino, Hank Goldberg, Joe Rose, Frank Haith, longtime tournament friend Jack McKinney and many others.
The Kreul, however, is about more than basketball. Reflecting the philosophies of Jim Kreul and the founders, the tournament is geared to promote the most altruistic goals of high school athletics. Emphasis on education is a core component, as more than 100 Florida students have been awarded scholarships of varying amounts. This includes 70 four-year academic tuition scholarships to Florida Atlantic University.
Underscoring the importance of community involvement, the City of Coral Springs has provided dedicated partnership since the Kreul’s inception. After three years of solid support, the City made the unprecedented effort of signing on as co-sponsor. With the City’s generous patronage, the tournament has not only survived, but also grown in reputation. However, it takes more than one sponsor to sustain a tournament of this size. Throughout the years, a number of benevolent businesses have partnered with the Kreul to shape this exciting experience for our youth. The sponsors are always in short supply and each one is appreciated immensely and vital to the event’s success.
Would Jim and K.L. be proud of the tournament that memorializes them? Well, the Kreul is a commitment to youth, driven by community volunteers, and dedicated to a game they both loved. We believe they would be proud.
Reilly certainly believes so.
“We’ve had a lot of great people help with putting on the tournament,” Reilly said. “There have also been a lot of talented teams and players who have been a part of it. With the help of fans of good basketball, we have been able to provide an avenue to take them to the next level, through exposure and by awarding scholarships. I am sure it is just the way Jim would have wanted it.”