YOU ARE HERE: HeraldMail HomeCollectionsGym

'Air Man' bounces in

March 04, 1998|By TERI JOHNSON

by Richard T. Meagher / staff photographer

click image to see the enlargement


Students who filled the gym at Western Heights Middle School in Hagerstown Tuesday didn't let down their guard.

Their guard was Reggie "Air Man" Dixon of the Harlem Globetrotters, and he appeared to be having as much fun as they were.

Dixon's appearance was a surprise for the 170 fifth- through eighth-graders, who didn't know until Tuesday morning that the 6-foot basketball star would be at their school.


Principal Darlene Teach told students during announcements that there would be a special assembly, and students would be invited based on grades, good behavior and attendance.

"It's a nice reward to show kids that working hard and being successful does count," Teach said.

Dixon drove that point home from the time he entered the gym, wearing gray sweats and carrying a red, white and blue basketball.

Dixon was in Hagerstown as an advance ambassador to promote the Harlem Globetrotters' Saturday night performance at Hagerstown Junior College. He also made appearances Tuesday at the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County and Valley Mall.

Dixon, who got his nickname because of his 52-inch vertical leap, combined humor and finesse at Western Middle School, performing tricks such as catching the ball behind his head, tossing it behind his back and rolling it from shoulder to shoulder.

His antics at the hoops brought whoops from the students in the bleachers, who waved their arms wildly each time Dixon asked for a volunteer.

AirmanHe spun the ball on students' index fingers and engaged them in a game of catch, and it took little prompting to get them to clap and stomp to the strains of "Sweet Georgia Brown," the Globetrotters' theme song.

Sixth-grader Mark Brown, who turned 12 today, was part of a group that got to pass the ball back and forth to Dixon. Mark's routine included passing the ball between his legs and bouncing it off his backside.

"It was fun; I had to do the hard stuff," Mark said.

Dixon had the crowd howling with laughter when he introduced one student as his daughter, another as his son and a teacher as his wife.

Dixon, who really is married and has a son and daughter, plucked 11-year-old Chris Schindler from the audience and introduced him as "Peewee."

"I want you to make a basket," Dixon told Chris as he eyed the nearby hoop, then turned him around so he faced the basket at the opposite end of the gym. "Down there."

Chris, a sixth-grader, said later he was surprised to be chosen.

"It was fun," he said.

Dixon delivered a serious message, saying basketball lasts a season, but education lasts a lifetime.

"Knowledge is power, and there's no limit to what you can do or be if you have an education," Dixon said.

He said he never has used drugs, and he advised students to follow his example.

"If I can do it, so can you," said Dixon, 33.

When Dixon asked if there were any questions, eighth-grader Corey Mowen raised his hand and asked him to play one-on-one. Dixon rose to the challenge and joined 13-year-old Corey on the court.

Corey, who plays basketball in the E. Russell Hicks Junior League, said afterward that he enjoyed the performance.

"It's cool what he said about grades and stuff," he said.

At the end of his talk, Dixon asked students to put their right finger in their ear and repeat the following words: "What this mind can conceive, what this mind can believe, I know this mind can achieve."

He then explained the significance of his action.

"I don't want it to go in one ear and out the other," Dixon said.

The Herald-Mail Articles