Last summer, Mohonasen Athletic Director Joseph Scalise started looking into ways the district could raise money for a new scoreboard at the football field.
He decided on a basketball game that would pit the district’s faculty against the Harlem Wizards. Like their crosstown neighbors, the Harlem Globetrotters, the Wizards play a high-flying brand of basketball that features trick shots and fancy dribbling. One major difference between the teams, though, is that the Wizards most often play in charity games, traveling across the country to help schools and organizations raise money.
We not only unite the community, we give them an exciting night out, said Wizards President Todd Davis.
The show rolls into Rotterdam on Friday, March 28. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in the high school gym. Tickets are general admission and cost $10.
`Hopefully we’ll have a really good turnout,` said Rosie Semerad, Scalise’s secretary.
Fundraising basketball games aren’t a new idea at Mohonasen. Years ago, the district sponsored donkey basketball games, Semerad said. In more recent years, faculty from the district’s different schools squared off. But this is the first time an outside team like the Wizards has come in, and Semerad said district officials have been doing some intense recruiting.
`We’re trying to get faculty from all four schools,` she said. Then, with a laugh, she added, `We’re trying to get the tallest and the youngest.`
The Wizards’ roster, meanwhile, features a mix of veterans, playground stars and former college standouts. Laquan Castro, nicknamed `Jump Man,` is a seven-time New York City slam dunk contest champion who played at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. Rashaan `Rocket` Barner was a first-team All-American at William Paterson University in New Jersey. Claude Henderson, also known as Tojo, has been with the Wizards since 1967 and says, `This is my chance to communicate with America’s youth.`
Establishing that bond with people of all ages is key to the Wizards’ mission, according to Davis. People don’t have to follow sports to enjoy a game: `We’re using basketball as a connection,` he said. `It’s not only exciting trick basketball, but a real warm-hearted experience.`
To that end, players climb into the stands and mingle with the crowd. Children are invited to take part in contests and games on the court. Virtually anyone wanting an autograph can go home with one.
Davis’ father, Howie, created the Wizards and their fan-friendly brand of basketball back in 1962. Davis took over the team when his dad died in 1992, and he’s been to the area with the Wizards before. The team played the Albany Patroons, a semi-pro team, in a sell-out game at the Washington Avenue Armory in 2005.
But the Wizards’ connection with the Capital District stretches back even further than that. When Davis was growing up, he spent weekends with the Wizards, traveling to games and practicing tricks with the team. At the time, Schenectady boasted a semi-pro team called the Schaefer Brewers. Davis, a native of Far Rockaway, remembers coming upstate to watch the Wizards take on the Brewers in hugely popular contests.
`People were hanging from the rafters,` he said.
While Mohonasen is hoping the Wizards game will again bring out that kind of crowd, Davis said he hopes people won’t be disappointed if the faculty fall to the Wizards. After all, they’d be in good company.
`We have about 3,000 wins in a row,` he said. `We want to keep the streak going.“