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Globetrotters thrill overflow crowd

March 08, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Globetrotters thrill overflow crowd

When the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters take to the court, every slam dunk is for the kids.

So it was Saturday night when the basketball stars, dressed in red, white and blue, entertained a standing-room only house of more than 3,200 that filled the stands and spilled over onto the floor in the Hagerstown Junior College athletic complex.

The Globetrotters entertained the crowd and played the New York Nationals, for the benefit of the HJC athletic scholarship fund.

The performance was about to begin when a few adults who were unable to get tickets brought their kids to the back doors of the gym in hopes the children would be able to at least see something through the glass doors. One little girl was crying.

It was then that officials who staged the event allowed them to pay and come inside.

"After all, this is for the kids," one of them said.

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The Globetrotters didn't see the children standing on the outside looking in, but they would have been glad to know they got a chance to see their show - even if it wasn't from the relative comfort of a bleacher seat.

Before the show started, Globetrotter Fred "Preacher" Smith talked about the team's philosophy.

"Everything we do is special - for the kids," he said. "We talk to them about school, how important it is for them to finish school. It's all for the kids."

Smith is a 6-foot 5-inch Oral Roberts University forward who played professional ball in Europe after his graduation. The 26-year-old star has been with the Globetrotters for two years. He holds the world record for the vertical slam dunk at 12 feet.

While some Globetrotters would like to play pro ball, they say they love doing what they're doing now - traveling the world - playing in small towns and big cities, and going into local schools talking to kids about the value of education.

"All of us have finished school, and that's what makes it so special to be here," he said. "It's a God-given gift to be a Globetrotter."

All Globetrotters are graduates. None are dropouts.

That's not necessarily the way it is in the pros, Smith said.

The crowded crowd, which was asked to squeeze together to fit as many in as possible, clapped to the familiar strains of the Globetrotter's theme song, "Sweet Georgia Brown," as team members took to the court and performed basketball wizardry before the game.

Matt Delawder, 13, of Paw Paw, W.Va., sat in the stands with his family. Matt said he had seen the Globetrotters on television before. By the time the pre-game entertainment had ended, he was impressed.

"They're cool," he said.

Some of the kids were only kids at heart. Tom Neat of Hagerstown, a disabled Vietnam veteran, sat at courtside in his wheelchair. He had seen the Globetrotters once before, years ago, when he was going through New York on his way to his base in Boston.

Sean Hunt, 13, and Don Fonte, 12, both of Smithsburg, said they wanted to see the Globetrotters play. Both boys have played basketball.

"I want to see 'em dunk, and twirl (the basketball)," Fonte said.

He wasn't disappointed.

Alan Artz of Williamsport was at the show with his son, Alan II. They had seen the Globetrotters on TV.

As it turned out, everyone got a seat, even if it was on the floor, and everybody got a thrill, even volunteers Helen Spinnler, 82, and Novello Pfeiffer, who doesn't tell people her age. The two women were manning the back door. They had become Globetrotter fans.

"We've got to meet them all," Pfeiffer said. "They were very sweet and friendly."

The two women had to stand to watch the show when their seats disappeared when their backs were turned. They didn't complain.

Maybe the happiest fan in the gym was a little girl who was standing outside the back doors crying because she couldn't get in. When officials opened the doors for her, those tears slowly dried.

That would have made Fred Smith happy.

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