By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

There were stories, art projects and even dancing when members of the Fort Hays State University men's basketball team visited the Roosevelt Elementary School Head Start classes Thursday.

Half of the team visited Jade Staab's and Sami Vanek's morning classes, and the other half of the team arrived in the afternoon.

The chairs weren't exactly their size, but the players participated in the art projects providing encouragement as the youngsters crafted pigs from construction paper and cookies out of paper plates.

Some of the pigs were plain and unadorned, others had eyes, ears, eyelashes and long hair.

Dom Samac, a forward on the team, chatted with the children as they worked on their projects. He taught some of the youngsters at the craft table to say "hi" in his native Croatian.

"It's fun for preschoolers to see basketball players and read and interact with them," Staab said.

"I told them a joke," one girl said as she waited to go to the reading groups.

The players read stories about muffins, cookies and pancakes, and the children ate the matching food.

"It's a way to give back to the community and give young kids a better understanding," FHSU head coach Mark Johnson said of the visit. "It's a big deal for kids and a positive influence."

"It's a good thing to do. We're more than just basketball players. Education is important," guard Nicholas Capiti said.

After he finished reading, Capiti asked the children about their favorite thing at school. Recess and play were No. 1, with snacks second.

"It's a lot of fun. The kids are excited," center Jared Tadlock said. "It's fun to get to do stuff in the community. When I was their age, this would have meant a lot."

Tom Gabric, a guard on the team, was a favorite with the children. Before reading a story to them, the children stepped close and rubbed his shaved head.

Before leaving, the team joined the children in a dance favorite, "A Tooty Ta."