Wilton basketball tournament and sneaker drive honors Tyler Ugolyn

WILTON — The 13th Annual Tyler Ugolyn Basketball Tournament will be held Friday, Jan. 24, through Friday, Feb. 7, at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy, 225 Danbury Road. This event honors the memory of Tyler Ugolyn, a Fatima graduate who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attack.

“This year’s tournament will include 43 teams across six divisions,” said Rob Benedetto, the school’s athletic director. “Thirteen schools are participating from all over Connecticut and New York.”

The tournament has been a beloved tradition at Fatima for 34 years. Thirteen years ago, it was renamed to honor Tyler and his love of the game. Tyler is remembered as often saying, ‘I just love the game,’ Principal Stanley Steele said.

“Every aspect of planning and running this tournament is a testament to that love: from the way the game is played, the way the volunteers give so selflessly, and the feeling you get when you walk into the building as the entire Fatima family is involved. Even our ‘Future Falcons’ (pre-K-second grade) participate.”

After graduating from Fatima, Ugolyn attended Ridgefield High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society. Tyler was a McDonald’s High School All-American Basketball nominee and was ranked as one of the top 250 high school seniors in the country. After being recruited to play basketball at Columbia University, Tyler founded Columbia Catholic Athletes and ran an inner city basketball league for Harlem youth.

“Tyler truly embraced our school motto of service above self,” Steele sid.

Tournament highlights will include an alumni game on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 8 p.m., and the Tyler Ugolyn Awards ceremony on Friday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. The awards are given to one eighth grade boy and girl in a ceremony expected to be attended by members of the Ugolyn family.

A portion of the tournament proceeds will be donated to the Tyler Ugolyn Foundation. Established after Tyler’s death, the foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to promoting youth basketball programs and the refurbishment of inner-city basketball courts. Courts have been renovated in Tyler’s memory across the country in conjunction with the NCAA Men’s Final Four, including San Antonio, Detroit, Indianapolis and Houston.

More information may be found at olfacademy.org under the Athletics tab.

Sneaker drive

While the tournament is ongoing, the youth ministry at Our Lady of Fatima will hold its annual sneaker drive. New and gently used sneakers will be collected at the school, Our Lady of Fatima Church, and the children’s wing of the Wilton Public Library, after which they will be donated to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization.

Sneakers and athletic footwear for all ages are sought. “Tyler was an active volunteer for Big Brothers and Big Sisters,” Youth Ministry Director Mara Fleming said. “His talent was outmatched only by his generosity and selflessness. I think he’d be thrilled that we have given hundreds and hundreds of sneakers to those in need over the years.”