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Island team preps for a night of high-octane ball
Eight Islanders executed jump shots, brushed up on blocking skills and worked up a sweat in the McMurray gym last week, practicing for what may be the biggest basketball game of their lives.
They’re members of Vashon’s Pride, a team of adult athletes who will compete on the court against a professional exhibition basketball team this weekend at Vashon High School.
The Vashon team, made up of teachers, principals, coaches and other Islanders, will take on the Harlem Ambassadors, an entertaining family-friendly touring team, in a fundraiser event for the Vashon Chamber of Commerce and the Vashon PTSA.
The Harlem Ambassadors, not affiliated with the Globetrotters, are a team of college graduate athletes who play a flashy and engaging game of ball, intermixed with interactive skits and games that are appropriate for all ages.
The Ambassadors have a vision behind their performances and a motto to match: “It’s not your grandfather’s basketball show.”
The athletes also pledge to be ambassadors off the court: They don’t use drugs and share the reasoning behind their decision with audiences nationwide. They promote an active, healthy lifestyle and stress the importance of education.
“An Ambassadors game has basketball in it, but it also has a great deal of comedy, interaction with the audience and skits,” said Andrea Simons, the Ambassadors’ director of client services. “It’s an entertaining event.”
The Ambassadors are touring the Pacific Northwest this month; Vashon is a stop on their tour sandwiched between Bremerton and Port Angeles.
Vashon’s team is more of a rag-tag bunch, though some of the athletes have played semi-professional ball; others, like team coach Carey Huffman, haven’t played since the fifth-grade.
“I’m looking forward to having some fun,” said Huffman, a PTSA board member. Vashon’s Pride, he said, has been working on its teamwork skills in the weeks before the game.
“On the court, it’s great — we’re having fun, and we’re all there to put together something fun for the kids,” he said. “Off the court, too, my teammates are funny and fun.”
Other Pride athletes said they, too, are looking forward to a good time, but hope they won’t be embarrassed on the court.
The Harlem Ambassadors “will come in here and run circles around us and do fancy tricks,” said Pride player Greg Stoffer. “Luckily, it’s all for a good cause.”
Chautauqua Elementary School principal Kate Baehr said she’s looking forward to having a good laugh at her own expense, while drumming up support for local organizations and spreading a healthy message to Island families.
“I figure I’ll be there to be the clown,” she said. “But as long as it’s for kids and families, and if the message is about healthy choices, then I’m all for it.”
After the game, the Ambassadors will sign autographs, then head to the Quartermaster Inn, where they’ll dine and stay overnight. Islanders are welcome to share a meal with the athletes after their game, said Chamber of Commerce executive director Lee Ockinga.
“I think the show’s going to be amazing,” she said. “This is a fun way to bring something fun and fairly inexpensive for family to Vashon.”
Though the show’s a fundraiser, she added, she doesn’t expect it to raise thousands of dollars for the Chamber and PTSA. Her goal, she said, is to bring a unique family event to Vashon that will also result in some money for each organization.
Huffman said he hopes the night is a huge success.
“Kids get to go and laugh, and it’s a great message, and it gives the family something to do together,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s hard to find an easy-to-go-to event for the whole family on Vashon. ... I watched the Harlem Globetrotters when I was a little kid, and I remember how much fun it is. I’m going to take my son and daughter, and not only will they get to watch and have fun, but they’ll get to see their poppa out there, too.”
Vashon’s Pride basketball team will take on the Harlem Ambassadors at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, at the Vashon High School gym. Tickets, $8 to $10, are on sale at Books by the Way, Vashon Bookshop and the Chamber of Commerce. Tickets at the door are $2 more. Concessions at the event support Pirate basketball. The Pride athletes are Greg Allison, Michael Ates, Kate Baehr, Laura Baker, Kim Davis, Kate Fregetto, Shawn Hoffman, Shawn Hogan, Carey Huffman, Kevin Linnell, Gary Means, Lance Morgan, Steve Nixon, John “Oz” Osborne, Henry Porter, Andy Sears, Kara Sears, Dick Sontgerath, Stephanie Spencer, Greg Stoffer, Christopher Swaby, Anna Sweezy and Chris Youman.