Harlem Globetrotter wows wheelchair basketball athletes

Harlem Globetrotter wows wheelchair basketball athletes

By Simone Blais and Kristi Patton

Author: BC Winter Games/Thursday, February 25, 2016/Categories: 2016 BC Winter Games, Basketball - Special Olympics, Wheelchair Basketball

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“The No. 1 language everyone speaks is smiles.”

It is what the Harlem Globetrotters Julian “Zeus” McClurkin said after large grins and laughter broke the ice with athletes during a surprise visit during a practice on the opening day of the Penticton 2016 BC Winter Games.

The Harlem Globetrotters are set to perform at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Monday, and McClurkin stopped into Penticton Secondary School Thursday afternoon as part of the Globetrotters’ Great Assist program, which tours schools and hospitals to brighten the lives of children.

While entertaining the crowd with his tricks, McClurkin explained, when he was growing up, his basketball prospects initially did not look bright. He kept getting cut from school basketball squads because he was too short, but in Grade 11, his big break came.

“I grew 5 inches, and finally made it on the team. I drank a lot of milk that summer,” he said.

He went on to play college ball at a Division II program, then enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University, walking onto the team and beating out 30 other players. Now an Ambassador for the Harlem Globetrotters, the Columbus, Ohio native holds the title for the most slam-dunks in a minute in the Guinness Book of World Records.

“They call me Zeus because every time I dunk the ball, it sounds like thunder. Well, that and I’m super big – I work out,” McClurkin said, to a laughing crowd. “Wheelchair basketball, that’s pretty difficult.”

He played a quick scrimmage game with athletes competing in the BC Winter Games wheelchair basketball at Penticton Secondary – struggling to keep up with the players.

"It was awesome. This is my second time ever trying this (sport), and you think we are amazing athletes as the Harlem Globetrotters, but these kids out here today, they were showing me some amazing new moves," McClurkin said after. "I think it was an amazing opportunity for me to put myself in their shoes and really see from their perspective.

"They are doing things that I couldn't do at their age with my legs. These kids are amazing."

The surprise visit left a lasting impression on BC Winter Games athletes.

“That was pretty amazing, especially when he did that spinning thing on my finger,” said 19-year-old Alyshia Joinson from Victoria. “He just said, ‘Hold up your finger,’ and I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Next thing you know, the ball is on spinning on my finger. Now I can say I can do that.”

This is Joinson’s second time as a Games athlete, having competed at the Mission 2014 BC Winter Games. The Games are an opportunity to create lasting memories, she said, adding she met her best friend in Mission.

“That was a pretty awesome way to start the Games,” said Joinson.

Photo Credit: Sara Machtler 



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