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Hipp, Rhodes go Global

March 01, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ



Harlem Globetrotters basketball

Tonight at 7

Doors open at 6

Hagerstown Community College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center

Tickets range from $12 to $70.

For information, call the center at 301-790-2800, ext. 309.

See also: A history of success

They've known each since at least high school, probably longer.

Johnny Rhodes, 27, and Exree Hipp, 26, grew up in the Southeast section of Washington, D.C., in houses about five minutes apart.

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When they're separated, it's never permanent.

cont. from lifestyle

They attended different high schools, but were basketball stars together at the University of Maryland for four years, along with a third friend from D.C.

After college, they joined professional leagues continents apart - Rhodes in Europe and Asia, Hipp in South America.

About two years ago, Hipp joined the Harlem Globetrotters.

Last year, the team was about to play a group of college all-stars and needed a point guard. Hipp recommended Rhodes, who left his team in Taiwan last March to join the Globetrotters.

The reunion developed a snag, though.

Rhodes was MVP of the three-game series against the all-stars, but Hipp didn't play. He had caught the chicken pox while visiting some sick children at a hospital.

Hipp has just finished a several-week stint playing for the Globetrotters in the western United States and Canada, filling in for an injured player.

At the same time, Rhodes was touring the Eastern Seaboard with the other squad. The Globetrotters have two teams.

Every day they were apart, they kept in touch.

This week, they're expecting to be teammates once again. Hipp said he'll probably be back on Rhodes's squad tonight, when the Globetrotters play at Hagerstown Community College, although plans were not certain earlier this week.

During a phone interview as he rode on a bus through Ohio, Rhodes said of Hipp, "It will be good to have him back."

University of Maryland fans who come to Hagerstown will likely feel the same way about both players.

Rhodes was a three-time all-conference selection in college, and the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time steals leader. He averaged about 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals per game in his career.

Hipp was a three-time honorable mention all-conference player, and averaged about 11 points and 4 rebounds a game.

During their careers, Maryland reached the NCAA tournament three times, and made the Sweet 16 round twice.

After that, Rhodes and Hipp scattered.

"I did the overseas thing," Hipp said during a phone interview before a game in Vancouver. He played professionally in Brazil after college.

Rhodes went to Italy. He joined a team in Napoli, before the team moved to a rural area outside the city.

He then played in Taiwan for two years.

Three times he tried to make an NBA team - the Sacramento Kings in 1996 and the Washington Wizards (formerly Bullets) in 1997 and 1998. Each time he failed, so Rhodes went abroad for basketball jobs.

Neither player is ruling out a future try at the NBA, but they say they're happy where they are.

Hipp names some of the places he saw during the Globetrotters' three-month international tour last year: Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Spain. They played in Australia for 28 days.

The team keeps a grueling pace. During the United States tour, from December to April, every day means a new city and another game, plus a practice session. On some Sundays, they play twice.

"I'm in tremendous shape," Rhodes said.

"Every Harlem Globetrotter could play in the NBA, but not every guy in the NBA could be a Globetrotter," Hipp said.

Besides keeping their passing, shooting and rebounding sharp, Globetrotters must know their tricks. Hipp works on using his elbows, his heels and his head to launch passes.

"I can catch the ball on the back of my neck and roll it around my head," he said.

Rhodes, who has a younger brother, said he was the first in his family to excel in sports.

For Hipp, the youngest of four siblings, sports was a family tradition. He said his mother, his two brothers and his sister were all track stars.

His father, also Exree, once scored 61 points in a game when he was in high school.

"He could have pitched for the White Sox, but he stayed in the Marine Corps," the younger Exree said.

Exree Hipp Sr. is a Cherokee Indian. The name Exree translates to "Little Brave."

Exree Jr. said his sister works for the FBI, which inspired him to major in criminal justice at Maryland.

"I wanted to go into law - maybe entertainment law," he said.

"I work really well with my hands," said Rhodes, an art history major. He said he has no time to paint or sculpt while on the road.

Hipp never saw the Globetrotters play in person before he joined the team, but said he used to watch their cartoon TV show as a kid.

Rhodes saw the team play once.

"What I most remember was the half-court shot and when they used to ride the unicycles."

The unicycles are gone, and the cartoon is off the air, but Globetrotters games always will inspire laughs.

"It's a great deal of athleticism and entertainment," Hipp said. "You'll definitely get your money's worth. You might get your purse stolen. You might get water thrown on you."

"I came here for the competition," Rhodes said. "Now, I've worked into being a showman."

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