For the first time since joining the Harlem Globetrotters approximately three years ago, Jermaine “Stretch” Middleton is slated to return to his native Los Angeles to teach area youth the Globetrotter way.
Middleton now lives in San Antonio, but the Crenshaw High School graduate is excited to return to Southern California for the basketball clinics, which will be held at 24 Hour Fitness locations in Hollywood, Carson, Northridge, Arcadia and Orange in July.
“For me, it’s a privilege and an honor — especially just to wear that red, white and blue,” he said. “The kids look up to us. It’s a special feeling. Sometimes, I don’t know how to describe it.”
For the last three years, the Harlem Globetrotters have partnered with 24 Hour Fitness to host the camps. Last year, Anthony “Buckets” Blakes and Brawley “Cheese” Chisholm taught hoops to area youth.
A staple of the Globetrotters is their fancy ball-handling skills, and Blakes and Chisholm were more than happy to demonstrate during the camp last year. They also cracked jokes, offered layup contests and taught basketball fundamentals.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Blakes said at the time. “That’s what the Harlem Globetrotters are all about. …We definitely love it — not only the chance to teach basketball skills, but a few Globetrotters skills, as well as life lessons. We talk about having great character. We also talk about the ABCs of bullying prevention as well.”
The Globetrotters’ C.H.E.E.R. (Cooperation, Healthy Mind & Body, Effort, Enthusiasm and Responsibility) program encourages young people to match their actions with the C.H.E.E.R. character traits throughout their lives.
The Harlem Globetrotters hosted 120 of the clinics in 2012 and 320 in 2013. This year, the team will hold 471 clinics in 19 U.S. markets. Each day consists of three separate, two-hour sessions.
“It doesn’t matter what skill level you are, every kid will have a blast at our summer clinics,” Globetrotters star Dizzy Grant said in a statement. “What could be more fun than to be coached by the Harlem Globetrotters? We bring joy to the game unlike anyone else.”
Middleton said the players look to entertain, as the Globetrotters have been successfully doing for the past 88 years. He said the overall messages about health, wellness and bullying really hit home coming from players.
“At these clinics, you have a chance to be like the Harlem Globetrotters,” Middleton added.
At 7 feet, 4 inches, he is the third tallest player in the history of the team — behind Tiny Sturgess (7-8) and Dut Mayar (7-6). After attending Crenshaw High, Middleton played for Northwood University for two years. The Seahawks were back-to-back Sun Conference regular season champs.
Middleton said he has been influenced by Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. He has at least one thing in common with Shaq — they’ve both broken backboards during dunks. In a game in Ecuador in 2012, Middleton and teammate Jet Williams both shattered backboards in the same game.
He isn’t the only Globetrotter from Southern California. Wun “The Shot” Versher, one of the best three-point shooters in team history, hails from Compton.
The clinics are for children ages six through 12. One will be held July 5 through 8 at the 24 Hour Fitness in Hollywood, 6380 W. Sunset Blvd. Each day, the camps run from 9 to 11 a.m., 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The cost is $69 for each two-hour session. Registration includes a free ticket voucher for a 2015 game. For information and to register, visit www.harlemglobetrotters.com/clinics.
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