The Proviso West Holiday Tournament, already regarded as the state's premier basketball event during the Christmas season, is going to get bigger than ever.
Tournament director Joe Spagnolo announced Monday that Proviso West, which will conduct its 51st annual tournament on Dec. 27-30 in Hillside, will expand from 16 to 32 teams beginning in 2012.
"We're going for greatness," said Spagnolo, who has been affiliated with the tournament since 1981. "We've been working on it for a long time. It will give more teams an opportunity to play here. I got tired of saying 'no' to new teams that wanted to play here."
Under the new format, the tournament will be expanded from four to six days with games being played on the main court in the 3,000-seat gymnasium and two start-of-the-art portable floors in the adjacent fieldhouse. The event will begin on the Saturday before Christmas and conclude on the afternoon of New Year's Eve.
"Our mission has always been to promote high school basketball," Spagnolo said. "Our motto is: 'Proviso West is where basketball is best.' We want everyone to enjoy what we have, from paying customers to referees to participants. We think it is a special event and we want more people to get involved in it."
The new format will call for games to be played simultaneously on three days of the tournament with two games under one roof in the fieldhouse for a single admission price. Single sessions will remain at their current pricing but on days where there are games in both facilities a ticket will allow admission to all games on both courts.
"If you're quick on your feet, you'll be able to see the end of all 61 games in the tournament," Spagnolo said.
The Proviso West Holiday Tournament was founded in 1961 by then athletic director Walt Sawosko, who wanted to start a local tournament so Chicago area schools could be at home during the holidays and wouldn't have to travel. It was expanded from eight to 16 teams after the first year.
Until that time, Chicago area schools that wanted to participate in holiday tournaments had no choice but to play at DeKalb or Pontiac or Centralia or Carbondale or not play at all. Because of Proviso West's popularity, other local holiday events such as Elgin, York, East Aurora, Rich South, Lemont and Wheeling were organized in later years.
Spagnolo said the inaugural 32-team field will be announced within the next week, after the pairings at all other holiday tournaments throughout the state are announced.
This year's opening-round pairings will pit Morgan Park vs. Hinsdale Central, Glenbrook North vs. St. Patrick, New Trier vs. Fenwick and Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Von Steuben in the upper bracket and Hillcrest vs. Morton, Rockford Auburn vs. Proviso West, Proviso East vs. Brooks and St. Joseph vs. Benet in the lower bracket.
Spagnolo said most of the 32 teams have already been secured and the dates for next year's event will be announced later this month.