Saturday, May 01, 1999

Globetrotters will get serious against all-stars

Athletic pride on line Sunday

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There will be no buckets of water (or shredded paper), half-court hook shots, mocking the referees or pulling down of an opponent's shorts.

        “Sweet Georgia Brown” may play briefly over the loudspeakers before the game, but the Harlem Globetrotters won't be paying much attention.

        “If you're coming to see the slapstick, it's not the game to come to,” said Mannie Jackson, owner and chairman of the Globetrotters.

  • What: Harlem Globetrotters vs. Denny's College All-Stars
  • When: 2 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: Firstar Center
  • Tickets: $25 ($2 discount for children 12 and under and senior citizens)
  • TV: ESPN2, 11 p.m. Wednesday
        The Globetrotters will show off their serious side Sunday when they face a team of college all-stars at 2 p.m. at Firstar Center.

        Xavier's James Posey, Lenny Brown and Gary Lumpkin, Cincinnati's Melvin Levett and Dayton's Coby Turner are among the players expected to be competing for the college all-star team.

        The Globetrotters take a 981-game winning streak into tonight's game against college all-stars in Detroit. Jackson said his squad has not lost since 1995 in Vienna, Austria, against a team put together by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

        “They love the bragging rights,” Jackson said of his guys.

        While the Globetrotters are known for their on-court hijinks, comedy and community involvement, in the 1950s and early '60s they used to play more than a dozen serious games against college stars every spring.

        Jackson is trying to revive that. The Globetrotters played one game in 1997 and are playing three this spring. He hopes to slowly build the series, perhaps to 10 or 12 games next year.

        “There's enough great college basketball players and enough interest around the country,” he said.

        “It's serious basketball. We're out to show the world we can play some basketball. This game is built solely to test the college kids.”

        In their first game in the Denny's College All-Star Series, the Globetrotters won 108-87 last Sunday in Oakland. At one point, they were ahead by 41 points.

        Jackson said his team would be among the top 20 teams in the NBA if it were in the league. He would love to face the U.S. Dream Team as it prepares for Olympic Games.

        “Our kids are just great athletes,” he said. “The first promise we make is we're great basketball players. People who know basketball know that.”

        Pete Newell coached the college all-stars last Sunday; this weekend it's Jim Cleamons.

        “You always expect a routine to come along, but these guys are going to get down to a serious state of mind,” Cleamons said. “We're going to have a good time; it's going to be entertaining, but there is athletic pride and competition on the line.

        “You've got grown men playing against college players who are trying to step their game up.”

        Cleamons was most recently coaching the Chicago Condors of the American Basketball League before the women's professional league folded in December. Growing up in Columbus, he remembers watching the Globetrotters in person and on TV, but admits to never having seen them play seriously.

        “Because people usually just see them in comedy skits and routines, they forget that this has to be a very athletic and very good basketball team because they make their rings and schemes look so easy, and we all know it's very difficult,” Cleamons said. “We know we have a challenge in front of us, and we certainly welcome the challenge.”

        He will be spending minimal time with his team, and won't even meet the Xavier players until Sunday.

        Cleamons, who lives in the Chicago area, has other things on his mind, too. His wife is due with the couple's first baby.

        “Hopefully I won't be getting a call during the game Sunday,” he said. “It's going to work out; we've talked to the child.”

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