Music blared as throngs of kids filled the court to get autographs from Harlem Wizards players Sunday afternoon at Columbus North High School.
The Wizards were in town to play a game against a team of local teachers, admininstrators and resource officers. But mostly, they were they to put on a show.
“It’s a great community,” Wizards team manager Eric “Broadway” Jones said. “We have a lot of celebrities, personalities here. It’s entertainment for people who want to be entertained. When I see those kids’ smiling faces, and I see families come up to me and just show appreciation for what we did, it makes it all worth it.”
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. superintendent Jim Roberts had seen the Wizards before. He had them at Batesville when he was superintendent at that school.
Roberts said of the four times he’s seen the Wizards, they seem to outdo themselves each time.
“I thought it was an awesome day,” Roberts said. “We have a chance to engage kids like we did. I had seen the Harlem Wizards before and had actually engaged in games with them before, so I knew that they would be very entertaining, and people that would come would have a lot of fun. The best thing about them is, it’s a kid-friendly show, and they work really hard to engage kids. Hopefully, we can do it again.”
Roberts coached the local team, along with former Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings. Catchings also signed autographs after the game.
Catchings does a lot of camps and clinics, and said she always sees the kids playing and parents and coaches yelling at them, telling them what to do. Sunday, the teachers and the principals were on the court, and the kids were there to watch them.
“It’s fun,” Catchings said. “I’m all about the kids. Being able to have an interactive session like this, and having the kids involved and engaged is great. Even moreso, the teachers and principals and the resource officers, I think it’s a great opportunity for the community to come together.”
Bartholomew Consolidated Schools Foundation executive director Suzi Bruin and Roberts picked the local team of 25 players representing every elementary, middle and high school in Columbus, plus other education-related organizations. The game raised money for BCSF for teacher grants, scholarships for seniors and programs such as the third-grade architectural tour.
Bruin helped get the ball rolling after meeting Wizards sales rep Shannon Hutchinson at an event.
“It just seemed like something that Columbus would embrace,” Bruin said.
The Wizards have four teams that do about 500 shows a year. Theirs is similar to the Harlem Globetrotters, who performed at North in January 2015.
Of the 24 BCSF players who saw action, 17 made at least one basket.
“Anytime that you can do something for the school foundation and for the kids here in Columbus, it’s always a positive thing,” Southside Elementary principal Jeff Backmeyer said.