Humor and hoops
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Coach Keith Sides and his Phillipsburg prep boys' basketball team were the center of attention Saturday as the Panthers stood near the Tiger logo at center court of Fort Hays State University's Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The Panthers just accomplished something a PHS boys' team hadn't done since 1975 -- win the Mid-Continent League tournament.
Less than a week later, it was Sides' wife who took center stage in front of the crowd in GMC.
Robin Sides was one of the people pulled out of the crowd Wednesday to participate in some sort of shenanigans with a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.
"He was sitting on my lap, and I didn't even realize he had my purse until he got out there on the floor with it," Sides said of Kevin "Special K" Daley.
She realized it was all in fun and was able to keep an eye on her purse up close when "Special K" took her out to mid-court to dance with him.
Tim Callahan, assistant athletic director at FHSU, said more than 2,500 people attended the Globetrotters' performance, the second at GMC in three years.
"It's a lot different people than those who come to Fort Hays games," said Callahan, holding his 10-week-old son, Keegan -- one of the youngest fans to attend Wednesday's performance. "It's nice to be able to bring them to campus.
"And they were well-entertained."
Besides the high-flying dunks and nifty ball-handling during the actual game, the touring exhibition basketball team dazzled the crowd during all the breaks as well.
Several parents other than Callahan were seen with small children, ones who wouldn't remember the trip but who their family wanted with them on this night nonetheless.
"I saw (the Globetrotters) when I was 20, and we had a chance to come and bring the family," Joel Kuchera from Quinter said as he balanced his 4-month-old daughter, Clementine, in one hand and a camera in the other.
Kuchera said he wanted his grown son, Chase, and the rest of his family -- wife Valerie and stepchildren, Millicent Brown, 10, and Dashiell Brown, 6 -- to get the opportunity to see the group in person, too.
Fans who purchased a "Magic Pass" ticket arrived an hour and a half before the game to shoot lay-ups and learn ball-handling tricks and take pictures with the Globetrotters. One of the most popular Globetrotters was Jonte "Too Tall" Hall, who at 5 feet, 2 inches wasn't all that much taller than most of the youngsters who stood alongside him for photos.
"Special K" was the main showman for the Globetrotters. And he made the night special for 8-year-old Joey Meyers, who made the trip from Goodland along with his mom, Ann Myers, and one of his good friends, 8-year-old Eli Greene.
Joey, who his mom said "breathes basketball," was excited before the game when he got to do a ball-handling trick with Darnell "Spider" Wilks.
"Both their birthdays are in February," Ann Myers said of her son and his buddy. "So we thought this would be a fun trip for them."
Numerous youngsters got the chance to perform right alongside the stars of the show when they were picked from the crowd by one of the Globetrotters.
There was 10-year-old Mason Perez from Larned, who won a game of musical chairs and brought cheers from the crowd when, as one of the last two left in the game, he pushed the team's mascot, Globie, off the chair and plopped down on the chair himself.
"Yeah, (the Globetrotters) told me to do that," Mason said with a grin. Mason's dad, Allen, had bought his son a Globetrotters' jersey at their memorabilia stand, but he won a wristband for participating -- and winning -- the musical chairs game.
Seven-year-old Macy Eberle from Ellis might have gotten the loudest cheers when she passed an NBA-sized ball through her legs without ever dropping it and got to spin a ball on her finger with Herbert "Flight Time" Lang. For her efforts, Macy was handed a miniature Globetrotters ball, which she promptly dribbled while she made her way back to her family.
Several children were attending the event with their grandparents.
Dan Schmidt from Hays never had seen the Globetrotters before and decided to bring his two grandsons, 8-year-old Connor and 2-year-old Cooper Schmidt, to the coliseum.
"I thought they'd like it," he said. "I'm sure I will, too."
Kenny Hrabe, Stockton, was all smiles as he followed his wife, Betty, and their two grandchildren along the indoor track behind the main stands before the game.
He had his hands full of coats while trying to keep up with 9-year-old Ethan Means and his younger sister, Kaelyn, 8.
"We thought this would be a fun trip for them," Kenny Hrabe said.