The annual City Is Mine Basketball Classic has been one of the best events to end the summer. Four teams representing four Boroughs going at it for bragging rights and Basketball supremacy. The 2021 tournament which made its return on Saturday August 21st after taking a break last year due to Covid-19. This years CIM basketball classic was one of the best I have witnessed in all of the years I have covered the event.
Let’s take a look back at what went down three weeks ago….
The Build up
Leading up to the event on August 21st, CIM released a promo video done by Ukwan Milliner of Vintage Vizuals introducing the four teams that were participating in the event (United Brooklyn, Real Skills, Team Shine , Milbank) The promo vid created a frenzy mainly due to a comment by Team Shine coach Hector Almodovar when he was asked about going up against Real Skills coach Daon Merritt when he said that Merritt “is just a trainer he ain’t a coach”The comment by Almodovar raised the anticipation of the event for everyone across the city.
Team Shine consists of many players from the Riverside Hawks AAU program and is coached by Almodovar and legendary grassroots head coach Dermon Player. Many of their notable players include Many of the top post grad players in the region such as Jay Woodard, Promise Opurum, and Todd Rochelle. Shine also added the tough and outspoken PG Tyler Hawkins to their squad.
Real Skills led by founder and St. Rays product Daon Merritt brought out the top players from the Queens / Long Island area but he also brought a big staff as well. Real Skills staff included Depaul standout and streetball veteran Cliff Clinkscales along with NYC Finest head coach Rob Diaz and Coach Malie Williamson from the Rising Stars AAU program. It was the first appearance for Real Skills majority of the players on Real Skills are from Queens and Long Island
The event kicked off with Real Skills beating Shine 85-77 behind a balanced attack from their guards. While seniors Jaquan Sanders and Tyshawn Trail combined for 38 points. Zakai Ziegler and Dwayne Pierce scored 13 and 17 respectively. Wings academy grad and Woodstock academy bound wing Jay Woodard led Team Shine with 26 points. Real Skills was able to fend off a late rally made by Team Shine to seal the win.
The first game set the tone and gave them some momentum heading into the championship. The win was also a statement made for head coach Daon Merritt who May have taken Almodovar’s comment personal.
Up next was 4 time champions Milbank against 2016 champion United Brooklyn coached by Arkansas product Gary Ervin. Even though Milbank are the 4-time champs Coach Rose still sees himself as an underdog just as a way to keep themselves humble but focused on the goal at hand.
Milbank set the tone early getting out to a sizable lead in the first half and then never looked back as they handled United Brooklyn 82-72 behind a 22 point , 8 rebound performance by Dominik Barlow who made his city is mine debut. Zaire Wells added 14 while Cardinal Hayes senior DJ Victory flirted with a triple double (8pts/7assists/5 rebounds). Hayes rising senior Tarique Foster scored 13 but made his presence known throwing down emphatic dunks.
After a highly competitive semifinals it was time for the championship where pride and bragging rights were on the line. Both teams knew what was at stake at that point and went at it from the jump.
From the tip Real Skills came out with sense of urgency as they raced out to a 10-4 lead. The lead then went to 26-17 as Tyshawn Trail and Zakai Ziegler went hit timely shots and they turned it up on the defensive end. The first half was quite entertaining as both teams were also trading emphatic dunks that got the crowd hyped.
Fresh off his appearance at Jellyday earlier that Saturday, IMG academy wing Anthony Gilkes came right into the CIM event and went baseline for an emphatic dunk over a defender, Gilkes then followed it up with a fast break dunk. Milbank’s Dominik Barlow countered with a huge fast break dunk over a defender himself. Milbank went on a mini run to close the half but Real Skills went into the half up 28-21 as Mohamed Dioubate blocked a shot at the buzzer gaining confidence and momentum going into halftime.
In the second half Real Skills lead would quickly grow to 15 points with 9:45 remaining leaving the Milbank on the ropes but they would quickly answer back with a huge run fueled by some big shots hit by Jayden Williams and Zaire Wells to cut the lead to six. Team Real Skills had some turnovers and sloppy play which played a huge part in Milbank’s run but they regrouped in the last few minutes to close out Milbank en route to a 63-52 win to become 2021 City is Mine champions.
Tennessee Commit Zakai Ziegler Led three players in double figures with 14 points, six boards and four assists Mouhamed Dioubate came up huge with 13 points and five boards. Tournament MVP and St. John’s commit Jaquan Sanders of Our Savior Lutheran scored 12 points and dished out three assists. In the two games combined, Sanders averaged 15.5 points and 3.5 assists per game.
The Boys from Queens Reign Supreme
From the timely shots hit by guards Jaquan Sanders Tyshawn Trail, and Zakai Ziegler to the toughness and tenacity by Mo Dioubate and Cherif Diarra on the defensive end in the front court. Real Skills proved that the borough of Queens reigned supreme in NYC basketball that Saturday evening. Overall It was an impressive showing by both teams in the game that in our opinion made this years City is mine tournament the best one in the event’s history.
Winning CIM is not the only thing basketball heads from queens are bragging about this summer. NYC finest won the HS division championship or had players from the program win a championship in many of the top summer leagues in the city. Far Rockaway native Jaquan Sanders has emerged as one of the top players of the summer after the live period.
The future continues to be bright for CIM as Bowen, along with Cofounder Carmelo Anthony of the Los Angeles Lakers, is taking the CIM on the road and furthering their expansion to cities such as LA, Washington DC, Chicago, and Philadelphia. CIM already expanded to Baltimore in 2019 as they will be returning there as well in 2022.
From the stacked rosters to the high level competition in all three games there’s no question that the City is Mine Basketball Classic is the new era of Golden Hoops, as Bowen said in the promo video. It’s one of many events where you will see the top upcoming prospects along with the best in the city under one roof.