FORT WORTH - In December of 1958, Eight North Texas high school basketball teams gather for a four-day tournament in Fort Worth’s Public Schools Gym to raise money for the West Side Lions Club.

During the next two decades, the small regional tournament matured into an annual Texas tradition.

In 1981, the tournament became national after extending an invitation to its first out-of-state team a year earlier, with top-ranked DeMatha Catholic High School of Hyattsville, Md., competing - and winning.

As the tournament extended its reach, Corpus Christi-based Whataburger began supporting the tournament and in 1984, the iconic Texas company became the title sponsor of the newly named Whataburger Basketball Tournament.

The December 2007 tourney will feature 18 teams ranked in the top 20 in the state by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC) plus three nationally renowned teams will compete in front of fans, college scouts and national media in the 50th Annual Whataburger Basketball Tournament  that runs Thursday, December 27, through Saturday, December 29.

Sports Illustrated and USA Today have called the Whataburger Basketball Tournament one of the nation’s top five holiday high school tournaments.

Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Morgan Wootten, now retired, recalls 1981, the year his team, DeMatha, alma mater of many Hall of Famers and NBA stars, won the tournament. “The competition was excellent,” Wooten said, whose basketball program was one of the premiere in the nation. “We played some of the finest teams in Texas, as well as from around the country.”

This year’s tournament boasts high profile teams such as Milwaukee King, the first team to play from Wisconsin, and perennial favorite Los Angeles Crenshaw, back for the sixth time in the tournament’s history.

Under the coaching of retired legendary prep boys basketball coach Willie West, Crenshaw has been featured in numerous movies and television shows because of its boys basketball program.

“We share the parents, and fans, pride in the players, achievements and appreciate their dedication to the sport. It’s a thrill to watch them shine in a major tournament,” Preston Atkinson said, Whataburger Restaurants President and COO. “The tournament allows us to thank our customers from Whataburger communities large and small and showcase some highly competitive basketball.”

Each division plays at a different site in Fort Worth:  5A and 4A teams in the orange division play at the 5,000-seat W.G. Thomas Coliseum of Birdville Independent School District; the white division’s 4A and 3A teams play at the 2,000-seat Haltom High School; the blue division consists of small schools classified as 1A, 2A or 3A and play at Nolan Catholic High School’s 1,200-seat gym.

Participating teams follow below. For additional tournament history, team information and specific player statistics, please refer to the 50th Annual Whataburger Basketball Tournament fact packet.

Orange Division Teams:

Arlington Martin, Coppell, Euless Trinity, Fort Worth Dunbar, Flower Mound Marcus, Houston Strake Jesuit, Hurst L.D. Bell, Irving, Los Angeles Crenshaw, Mansfield, Mansfield Summit, Milwaukee, Wis. King, Monroe, La. Carroll, North Crowley, Plano West, Richland

White Division Teams:

Arlington Heights, Birdville, Canyon Randall, Crowley, Denton, Denton Guyer, Elgin, Everman, Fort Worth Eastern Hills, Fort Worth Southwest, Haltom, Lewisville Hebron, Mansfield Legacy, San Antonio Sam Houston, Southlake Carroll, Waxahachie

Blue Division Teams:

All Saints Episcopal, Argyle, Brock, Burkburnett, Canyon, Fairfield, Fort Worth Christian, Graford, Holliday, Martin_s Mill, Nolan Catholic, Peaster, Pittsburg, Ponder, Tuscola Jim Ned, Tyler Chapel Hill

Whataburger supports numerous local education, non-profit and community organizations in communities across 10 states in the South and Southwest.