SEBASTIAN — Luke Laoutas was excited when the Harlem Globetrotters picked him out of a crowd of several hundred people to come to the court.
With a little help from the exhibition-style basketball team, the energetic 8-year-old made a shot from the free-throw line while blindfolded. Cheers from the audience flooded the indoor-gym as the Globetrotters gave Laoutas – who was still smiling- an autographed jersey.
“It was pretty cool,” said Laoutas, who lives in Port St. Lucie and plays basketball and hockey. Laoutas’ mom, Mary Huffstetter, of Port St. Lucie, said watching her son interact with the iconic Globetrotters in front of hundreds was a dream come true.
“I watched the Harlem Globetrotters years ago,” Huffstetter said. “I love basketball.”
Harlem Globetrotters doing their famous basketball tricks at SRHS. pic.twitter.com/LMxKbmZrcf
— Nicholas Samuel (@JournalistNickS) December 14, 2019
The internationally-known Globetrotters stopped by Sebastian River High School at 3 p.m. Saturday as part of their world tour. The team wowed the audience with their stunts, comedy and dunks during their game against the Washington Generals, another exhibition-style team who play under different aliases as the Globetrotters’ recurrent opponents.
The $29 ticket-event was designed as a fundraiser for Sebastian River High School’s athletic department, said Athletic Director Jessica Upchurch. Upchurch said the school district gives the high school funds for athletic activities and equipment, but it isn’t enough.
“We pay for the rest through different fundraisers,” Upchurch said. “We’ve increased our athletic numbers. With the increase in numbers of athletes, the more money we need.”
Upchurch said the Globetrotters contacted the high school shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday. On short notice, Upchurch helped to organize the event, which she said aligns with the athletic department’s goal of bringing the community to campus.
“This is their first time coming here,” said Upchurch, who noted she grew up watching the Globetrotters when they would visit Chicago. “We all made it work.”
Saturday, she got the chance to watch them in action again. The 11-player team came out to the court dancing to their whistled theme song “Sweet Brown Georgia.”
The basketball team performed several skits during the game. One of their satirical skits included player “Hammer Harrison” giving the referee – who was also part of the performance – a wedgie.
During half-time, the Globetrotters had the audience come to court to dance to Village People’s well-known ‘Y.M.C.A.’ disco song. The team autographed Harlem Globetrotters basketball merchandise for fans, including jerseys, toward the end of the game.
“It’s great for our community, especially the kids. It brings the community together as a whole,” Sebastian River High School Principal Dariyall Brown said. “We know they’re going around the country. We’re happy they came here. It helps get the community in a Christmas spirit.”
History of Harlem Globetrotters
In 1926, Abe Saperstein created the Harlem Globetrotters on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, where all the original players were raised. The team’s origination occurred at a time before basketball was racially integrated.
Later, Saperstein moved the team to Harlem, New York City, New York.
Since then, the team has “trotted the globe,” entertaining more than 148 million fans in 123 countries and territories, introducing many to basketball, according to the team website. The team even had its own Saturday morning cartoon series – ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ – that ran in the early 1970s.
Nearly 750 men and women have played for the world famous Globetrotters, according to the website.
Former Globetrotters player Mannie Jackson purchased the team in 1993, making him the first African-American to own a major international sports and entertainment organization. In 2013, the team was bought by Herschend Family Entertainment, the nation’s largest family-owned themed attractions corporation.
Photos by Kaila Jones and Nick Samuel