Harlem Globetrotters bring serious fun to court, classroom wherever they go

Harlem Globetrotters bring serious fun to court, classroom wherever they go
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POSTED: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 6:00am

UPDATED: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 6:04am

The jesters of the jump shot will return to town. But they already started making an impact on their biggest fans.

Anthony "Buckets" Blakes arrived in Baton Rouge on Tuesday for a series of public relations events ahead of the Harlem Globetrotters' games on Saturday, including an appearance for students at Dufrocq Elementary.

"We come in, and we play professional basketball, and we're role models," Blakes said of speaking to school groups. "And then they hear from us, and they're like, 'okay, yeah, mom and dad was right,' or, 'my aunt and uncle's correct. My teacher, my coach was right about having good character or not bullying people and pushing other people around and treating others with respect.' So it's a great feeling, man."

Blakes is in his 12th season with the Globetrotters. He estimated that he has reached close to a million children during his career.

"I've put on I-don't-know-how-many Globetrotters summer skills clinics," he said. "I don't know how many school visits I've done since I've been on the team or how many hospitals, how many recreation centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs."

Blakes has visited 74 different countries while wearing the Globetrotters' famous red, white, and blue uniform, and the team continues its social mission when it travels overseas.

"We do a military tour for our troops every year," he mentioned, "just to give them a piece of home, because they're out there fighting for our freedoms."

Blakes is one of 29 Globetrotters who play on three rosters that tour the country. The teams are currently on in the middle of the 2013-14 Fans Rule Tour. Each night, fans can choose from five unique rules, including increasing or reducing the number of players, adding trick shots, and making some players worth twice as many points.

He was a two-year starter at University of Wyoming before playing in the NBA D-League and in Europe. A Globetrotters scout invited him for a tryout, and he earned a 10-day contract. He said he signed a full-time contract on Day Six and has never looked back.

"You know, to be living out your dream as wanting to be a professional athlete growing up, playing for the world's greatest team -- you know, we're the home team everywhere we go in the world -- it's the best experience I've ever had," he said.

Blakes, who lives in Phoenix, said players tour for six or seven months a year. They go through intensive training camps each year in Long Island, New York to learn ball handling tricks, the team's signature plays, and to get into condition. (The teams often play seven games a week.) They also train in public relations, learn financial planning, and anything else that may help them become better ambassadors.

The hard work continues during the tour. "We practice for about an hour and 30 minutes to two hours before every game so we're as perfect as possible. Cause you never know whose first Harlem Globetrotters game it's gonna be.

"These kids have heard these stories from their parents and their grandparents about, 'oh, this team does this, and they're all that, and they do this and they do that.' And you want to give them that same experience to talk about when they have kids one day."

The Globetrotters will play at the Baton Rouge River Center at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. They also have games Friday night in New Orleans and Sunday afternoon in Lafayette.

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