PORTLAND – The Harlem Globetrotters have been entertaining basketball fans of all ages worldwide for 84 years with top quality play, plenty of court shenanigans and a cast filled with unique players’ nicknames like Meadowlark, Curly, Tex, Goose and Geese.

The names change, but not the product.

This season’s Globetrotters include Airport, Flight Time, Moo Moo and Hot Shot.

“We still keep the great tradition,” said Hot Shot Branch, who has been with the team for seven years. “We’re a fraternity of 650 players. The younger guys are carrying the torch.

“We play great games with a lot of energy. There’s a lot family fun and we get the crowd going. The people really support us.”

The Globetrotters’ 2010 World Tour comes to Portland for an appearance at 7 p.m. Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Tickets remain available. The tour started in October and will end in May.

“We had a record-breaking year in 2009 in terms of sellouts, which was remarkable with the economy,” said Branch. “We’re on our way to challenging it. This season has been so much fun.”

Along with the basketball component, the Globetrotters are involved in community work where they play. Branch spent time Friday at Reiche Elementary School in Portland. Branch was promoting the Globetrotters’ C.H.E.E.R. For Character program. He spent an hour talking to the students about the importance of cooperation, a healthy mind and body, effort, enthusiasm and responsibility.

“The schools have a lot of programs that stress the same qualities. We just try to build off them,” he said.

Earlier in the day, he was at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center, putting a smile on faces with his Smile Patrol, another Globetrotter initiative.

Every visit by a Globetrotter includes a demonstration of basketball skills and tricks to “Sweet Georgia Brown,” the team’s theme song.

Branch is one of the players who does advance work before the Globetrotters play in a city. Because he was in Portland on Friday, he didn’t play Monday in a game at Bangor. When he’s not scheduled to play for a week or two, Branch tries to get in as many workouts and shooting practices as possible.

“I’m 36 years old and I have to keep my skills strong because I want to play for at least another 10 years. I still feel I have plenty of years left as a Globetrotter,” he said.

Branch played professional basketball in Europe and had tryouts with NBA teams, but he says when he became a Globetrotter, he found his niche.

Branch, who is Baylor University’s sixth-leading career scorer and the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, was playing for a team scrimmaging the Globetrotters when he got asked to try out with the team.

The Globetrotters have 29 players on their roster, divided into red and blue teams that play in different locales. It truly enables the Globetrotters to be “Ambassadors of Goodwill.”

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: [email protected]