They have come from as far away as Ludlow, Mass. and Norwalk, Conn. and as near as neighboring shoreline towns such as East Haven, Guilford, and Madison. They are youth travel basketball teams and the reason they jaunt to the Branford Recreation Department during the months of February and March over the past 60 years is to compete in one of the nation's longest running youth basketball tournaments known as the Frank J. Kinney, Sr. Boys Invitational Basketball Tournament.
Entrenched in a rather long history of sports tradition in the Branford Community, Kinney, Sr. was a devoted physical fitness enthusiast, leading up to his skills as a member of the Yale University track team as a sprinter. His love for sports and Branford led him to manage the town baseball team for several years and later he served as an officer of the Branford Baseball Association. His immeasurable contributions came in the area of civic events. He was a prosecutor in the Town Court in 1905 and two years later served as a legislator in the State Assembly. He helped organize both the Branford Visiting Nurses Association and served as its first president. He was one of the founders of the town's Community Council and one of the architects of the Branford Recreation Department. It was through these actions, that the Branford Recreation Department's first director, Joe Trapasso, honored him with the naming of a boys basketball tournament in 1951.
Over the years, the tournament has seen national and local superstars compete in the basketball invitational including:
Calvin Murphy: Born in Norwalk on May 9, 1948, "Murph" attended Norwalk High School and was a basketball player who possessed some of the top skills in speed, quickness, great hands, ball handling skills, leaping ability and the shooting eye of an eagle. After attending Niagara University, he was drafted as the first pick in the NBA second round (18th overall) in 1970 by the San Diego Rockets, who moved to Houston after one year. Murphy quickly "rocketed" to NBA fame. A member of the NBA All-Rookie team in 1971, he spent all of his career as a member of the Rockets, averaged 17.9 points per game and ended his career with a total of 17,949 points. Calvin was elected to the Naismith Basketball of Fame in 1993.
John Williamson: Williamson played high school basketball at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven and played college basketball at New Mexico State University. He was a 6-foot-2-inch guard who drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the 6th round (10th pick) of the 1973 NBA Draft. While at Cross High School, Williamson played on the Connecticut State Championship teams of 1966-67 and 1967-68 and was runner up to crosstown rival Hillhouse in 1968-69.
His NBA career history took him to the New Jersey Nets from 1973 to 1977, the Indiana Pacers from 1977 to 1978 before his return to the Nets from 1978 to 1979 and then to the Washington Bullets from 1979 to 1981. In his pro career, Williamson scored 9,017 points, averaging between 11.5 and 29.5 points in every season except for his last. At the age of 45, Williamson died of kidney failure to diabetes on November 30, 1996.
Sylvester Williams: "Sly" was born January 26, 1958 in New Haven and played part of several seasons in the NBA with the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, appearing in 305 regular season games and seven in the playoffs. He attended college at the University of Rhode Island.
Scott Burrell: This Hamden resident was a forward for the UConn Huskies basketball team from 1989 to 1993. He is a member of the UConn Basketball All Century Team and is the first player in National Collegiate Athletic Association history to score more than 1,500 points, with at least 750 rebounds, 290 assists, and 300 steals. He is the first athlete in collegiate history to be selected in the first round in two separate professional team sports – basketball and baseball. After his senior year, he was drafted in the first round of the NBA, the 20th pick, and played with the Charlotte Hornets for five years. After the Hornets, Scott played for a year with the Chicago Bulls and was a member of one of its NBA championship teams. He later played with the New Jersey Nets for two years and then left the NBA to go to China and later to the Philippines where he played professional basketball overseas.
Jim Freund: Freund was recognized as a key member of the Branford High School basketball program in the late 1970's. A member of the 2008 Branford Sports Hall of Fame, Jim was a 1977 graduate and was a member of the Housatonic League championship team. Branford's win-loss record that year was 19-3 and included a 13 game winning streak to close out the regular season. Freund attended Quinnipiac University and graduated in 1981. While there, he was a four year member of the Braves' basketball team which won the 1978 ECAC New England Tournament Championship and to two NCAA Division II Tournaments (1980 and 1981). As a senior, Jim was named Honorable Mention All-America, on the basis of averaging 18.1 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game. The Madison, Connecticut resident is a member of the Quinnipiac University Athletic Hall of Fame.
John "Jake" Palluzzi: Jake Palluzzi was a two-year starter and captain of the 1978 undefeated (20-0) Housatonic League Branford High School boys basketball team. During his junior year, Branford won the Housatonic League championship posting an 18-2 record en route to his All-League selection, the New Haven Tap-Off Club First Team All County and Honorable Mention All-State Player. After graduation, Palluzzi enrolled at Southern Connecticut State University and led the Owls to back to back league titles in his junior and senior seasons. He was a head coach at North Branford High school for four seasons, winning the Shoreline Conference Coach of the Year as well as New Haven Register Coach of the Year. He was hired by Branford High School as Boys Head Basketball Coach and led his team in 1991-92 to a Housatonic League title and the Inaugural Oronoque Division Championship in 2004-05. He currently serves as co-athletic director at Branford High School.
James Petela: Petela was a dominant force on the Branford High School basketball team from 1978 to 1981. Petela was a selection to the All-Housatonic League team in his sophomore season, when he averaged 21 points per game. As a junior, he was named to the All State team as a guard/forward and as a senior, he co-captained the Hornets to a Housatonic League title. After graduation from Branford High School, Jim attended Yale University from 1981 to 1985 and played on the Yale varsity basketball team for two years.
Scott Bennett: Bennett was a high scoring basketball player for Branford High School in the mid 1980's where he started for three years. Both as a junior and as a senior, Bennett led the Hornets in scoring and in rebounding. He joined the 1,000 point club in his senior year, eventually ending with 1,093 points. Scott earned Second Team All State Honors and in 1987 was selected First Team All State. He was a member of the All Housatonic League Team two times, a McDonald's All America nominee and a New Haven Register Scholar Athlete. Following high school graduation, Scott attended Columbia University and was a four year basketball starter and two time Ivy League Rookie of the Week.
The tournament also has included the likes of numerous Branford hoopsters who have played on the collegiate level.
On March 13, the Branford Recreation Department will hold a reception ceremony unveiling the Kinney Tournament's 60th anniversary banner. All are welcomed to see the banner inside the Joe Trapasso Gymnasium