On Memorial Day the 21st MJP Memorial Basketball Tournament returned to Laguna Beach. Eight teams formed by the Prietto family played three on three at Top of the World Elementary School.
The tournament began in 1994 when Paulo Prietto was just 11. “I can remember waiting to be old enough to play. It was a big deal for me,” said Prietto. The rules were that players, mainly boy cousins and uncles, but sometimes girl cousins and wives, must be in high school. This year Laguna local Matthew Wheaton, “whose like a family member” subbed on Prietto’s winning team.
In the 1960s Carlos Prietto, one of 12 children and his wife Betty Prietto, Paulo Prietto’s grandparents and Pasadena residents purchased a home on Victoria Beach. It quickly became a family tradition to spend summers there overlapping stays with his many cousins, aunts and uncles who are spread across Orange County.
When his grandparents had both died, in the early 1990s, the 12 siblings sold the family home in Victoria Beach, but later that decade “my dad purchased a nearby Victoria Beach property because it is such a special place for us all,” said Prietto, 33 who now lives with his wife and three children in Upper Victoria Beach.
Today Prietto counts 60 cousins from which to draw basketball teams. When his brother Martin Joseph Prietto, died sixteen years ago the tournament was named for him. Now there is a name change in the works to honor Prietto’s other brother who passed last March. “It’s amazing that we’ve kept this tradition for all this time. This is one of our favorite days of the year,” Prietto said.