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Jonathan Wall

German team turns heads at top hoops tournament in Florida

Jonathan Wall
Prep Rally

The City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., isn't your average high school basketball tournament. Far from it -- the once-local holiday showcase has gone national in recent years, playing host to some of the best teams and players in the country.

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While this year's holiday tournament had the usual suspects -- Santa Ana Mater Dei (Calif.), Las Vegas Bishop Gorman (Nev.), Elizabeth St. Patrick (N.J.), Milton (Ga.) -- it also included a European high school team for the first time in the tournament's 38-year history.

Urspringschule, from Ulm, Germany, joined a group of high-profile high school teams from around the country to play in the tournament's Signature Series.

Due to some difficulties with the Florida High School Athletic Association -- the association wouldn't sanction its schools playing against a team from Europe -- tournament directors were forced to build a tournament within a tournament for Urspringschule that didn't include a team from the Sunshine State.

As the Fort Myers News-Press noted, nothing about Urspringschule screams "typical high school." From the 12th century monastery the team lives in to the $35,000 tuition bill (yikes), it's obvious the school is a first-class institution that eats, sleeps and breathes basketball.

While the team didn't have a player with the first name of Dirk or last name Nowitzki, it did have some incredible size and talent, including six players 6-8 or taller, and a 6-3 shooting guard, Malik Muller, who's being courted by UConn. Muller also won MVP honors at this year's Jordan Brand Classic International at Madison Square Garden.

Needless to say, they weren't at a disadvantage going into the tournament.

The team's size and athletic ability allowed them to advance all the way to the championship game before eventually falling to Bryn Athyn (Penn.) Academy.

While Urspringschule was the first European team to ever play in the tournament, there's a really good chance they won't be the last, said Donnie Wilkie, vice president of Classic Basketball, Inc.

"Basketball is exploding around the world," Wilkie told the News-Press. "If the tournament is about basketball in spirit, then why wouldn't we want to have teams who play basketball from all over the world? The challenge is finding teams that are, more or less, high school teams."

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