There aren’t many times the worlds of athletics and comedy intentionally crossover, but that is what is expected to happen Friday, Feb. 5, on the UNC Asheville campus. There, at the Kimmel Arena, the Harlem Wizards take the court against local athletes to raise money for Oakley Elementary School.
“We decided to try something new this year in terms of fundraising besides selling cookie dough or magazines,” says Kristin Schoonover of the Oakley Elementary Parent Teacher Organization. The PTO invited the nationally touring team of basketball players known for ‘tricks, hoops and alley oops’ to Western North Carolina. “These guys are hilarious and put on an amazing show with so many amazing basketball stunts that will blow everyone away,” says Schoonover.
The Harlem Wizards should not be confused with the legendary Harlem Globetrotters. Instead of vying for fame and fortune in the NBA, the Wizards prefer to showcase their ball-handling skills to benefit non-profit and school organizations. Delight crowds with high-energy athleticism, including slam dunks, trick plays and family-friendly comedy, the team performed at more than 400 community events last year and raised an estimated $2 million for their sponsors.
The Wizards’ current roster features veterans Lemarvon “Showtime” Jackson and Leon “Space Jam” Sewell, along with rookie sensation Jordan “Flight” Southerland and Roscoe “Sarge” Johnson, who is famous for a 360 backboard shattering dunk. Arnold “A-Train” Bernard played for the Globetrotters for seven years and Devon “Livewire” Curry led his team to three championships in the International Basketball Federation. There is also a pre-teen member of the Wizards, 11-year-old Morgan Ryan, who regularly shows off her trick-shot skills at NBA half-time performances alongside her father, Jack “BlackJack” Ryan.
The Asheville game was initially scheduled to take place at AC Reynolds high school gym, but moved to the larger UNC Asheville Kimmel Arena. There, the Wizards hope to keep the game competitive while bringing smiles to all in attendance.
“We have our principal and a handful of teachers, members of the women’s semi-pro basketball team Lady Jags and AC Reynolds alumni Dee Giger, who played [basketball] at Harvard, all joining in the fun,” says Schoonover. “We also have a bunch of mascots raffling off a primo birthday package with all proceeds going to our PTO.”
WHAT: Harlem Wizards basketball game fundraiser for Oakley Elementary
WHERE: UNC Asheville Kimmel Arena, 227 Campus Drive
WHEN: Friday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m. Advance tickets: $15 reserved seating /$25 courtside/$10 adults/$8 children. Game day tickets: $12 adults/$10 children. harlemwizards.com