Eight high school basketball games over two days will be held beginning this afternoon at Plainville High School, as the 19th annual Rybczyk Memorial Tournament is set to begin.
Unlike most holiday tournaments that only feature one gender or the other, the Rybczyk Tournament offers both girls and boys basketball action.
The tournament kicks off this year with a boys game today at 12:30 p.m., as Haddam-Killingworth (0-2) takes on Weston (0-3). Next up is a girls game, as Haddam-Killingworth (0-4) faces SMSA (2-2) at 2:30 p.m.
The host teams will play in the two late games. The Plainville boys (0-1) host SMSA (1-0) at 4:30 p.m., while the Blue Devils’ girls (3-1) will play Bulkeley (1-3) at 6:30 p.m.
The action continues on Thursday with consolation contests, pitting the losers of Wednesday’s games against each other, and championship games featuring today’s winning teams facing off. The girls consolation contest is at 12:30 p.m., followed by the boys consolation game at 2:30 p.m., the girls championship contest at 4:30 p.m. and the boys championship at 6:30 p.m.
Admission to the games is the usual $5 for adults, $2 for students and free for senior citizens.
The tournament honors the memory of former Plainville teacher and coach David T. Rybczyk.
Rybczyk was a teacher in the Plainville school system in the 1990s, as well as the coach of the Plainville boys varsity basketball team.
“He was a friend of mine for over 30 years,” former Plainville athletic director John Zadnik said. “He was probably the most positive person I’ve ever met. He was the consummate glass-half-full kind of guy.”
Zadnik and Rybczyk met long before their days at Plainville but their friendship rekindled when the two arrived at around the same time.
“He eventually came to Plainville and I got the AD position shortly after,” Zadnik said. “He was the basketball coach and we (bonded again) at that time. We would go out after basketball games.”
Before his time in Plainville, Rybczyk was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
At the time, pancreatic cancer did not have a reputation for allowing for long life after diagnosis. However, Rybczyk fought the disease for over 20 years before passing away in his sleep in 1999 at 54.
“At the time [of his passing], we had the tournament already in place with just boys,” Zadnik said. “The local Lions Club was sponsoring it but they were about to get out. We decided to take it over and rename it.”
That year, Plainville hosted the first annual David T. Rybczyk Memorial Tournament. Years later, a girls tournament would get added to the two-day event.
With the money raised by the tournament, Plainville, in conjunction with Rybczyk’s friends from Central Connecticut State University, the event became a way to benefit others.
“We used some of the money that we took in for scholarships,” Zadnick said. “It was decided that we would give out two, $1,000 scholarships to two players.”
Each year, scholarships are awarded to a male and female student-athlete who is a senior and plans to further their education at CCSU, Rybczyk’s alma mater.
“It would mean the world to him,” Zadnik said. “He would be very humble, of course. That was just the way he was.”
The continued success of the tournament further enforces the love the Plainville community had and has for Rybczyk and the program he helped build.
“I didn’t know anyone who met him and didn’t love him,” Zadnik said.
Staff reports included in this story.