It’s Game On! The St. John Paul II (JPII) Classic, an annual basketball game between priests and seminarians from the Diocese of Phoenix, has moved to a bigger location to accommodate larger crowds due to growing popularity.
The JPII Classic originated in 2015 and was held at the grade school gym at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLHP) Catholic School in Scottsdale, Ariz. This year’s competition will be held at Brophy College Preparatory (BCP), the event’s third location since the inaugural game.
“Vocations begin in families,” stated Pam Lambros, coordinator in the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Phoenix. “The purpose of the event is to bring together families from around the diocese for a fun, affordable, family friendly event, to increase vocations awareness, and raise a little money to support the Vocations Office, especially as Nazareth Seminary, our local diocesan seminary expands.”
In 2016, the game moved from OLPH, to Xavier College Preparatory (XCP) in Phoenix. This year’s game will take place on August 11, at BPC in Phoenix. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
Fr. Ian Wintering of San Francisco de Asis in Flagstaff, Ariz., started as a member of the seminarian team, but has moved to the priest team since his ordination in June of 2021.
“For me, the JPII Classic is a great opportunity for priests to gather together for a fun and entertaining event,” said Fr. Wintering. “With our busy schedules, it’s not very often that we get the chance to play a full game of basketball together, and to do that in front of a large crowd is thrilling.”
Fr. Paul Sullivan of St. Gregory Catholic Parish in Phoenix describes the game as, “… an event that goes far beyond basketball,” stating he wants to express his, “gratitude to everyone that comes out. The event is a boost for the priests too; to have fun with the community.”
Fr. Sullivan, who grew up playing basketball in elementary and high school in his home state of New York, has played in the JPII Classic every year. “The First game [in 2015] was most memorable. The game came down to the last second. The priests drew up the play but the ball didn’t go into the basket, so the seminarians won the game.”
This is the first year Fr. Sullivan will be absent from the priests’ roster as he will be attending his niece’s wedding in New York.
Fr. Wintering, agreed that the first game in 2015 was also his most memorable over his years in participating in the Classic. “It truly was a buzzer beater,” stated Fr. Wintering who was a member of team seminarian at the time. “The priests took a shot in the last second and it rolled out of the basket for the win.”
With a 4-3 series edge over the priests, the seminarians are known to hold a few practices over the summer in preparation for the game, but Fr. Sullivan states, “The priests just put our trust in our Lord.”
“The priests just show up and hope for the best,” stated Fr. Wintering.
“It does get pretty competitive,” stated Fr. Sullivan, “but ultimately everyone is there to have fun.”
Final roster spots are still being finalized for the competition.
Team Seminarian will be coached by Ryan Ayala and Team Priest will be coached by Mike Phelan.
“It has been really cool to see how this event has blown up and become as big of a sensation as it has,” stated Fr. Wintering, reflecting on the first game at OLPH. “Now it’s in the much larger Brophy Gym.”
Families and friends are encouraged to head down to BCP before the 7 p.m. tip-off to enjoy dinner from various food trucks that will be located in the BCP “mall” starting at 5 p.m. Fans are welcome to stay after the game for fellowship and free ice cream for all provided by the Knights of Columbus.
“There will be a prize for the parish or organization with the most fan participation at the event,” said Lambros.
Tickets and t-shirts for the game are on sale now. For tickets, information or sponsorship opportunities, visit https://www.ticketor.com/dphx.