Net gain: Globetrotter players like passing joy to fans

Harlem Globetrotters' Joyce "Sweet J" Ekworomadu will be in Wichita Sunday as part of the Globetrotters’ 2014 “Fans Rule” World Tour
Harlem Globetrotters' Joyce "Sweet J" Ekworomadu will be in Wichita Sunday as part of the Globetrotters’ 2014 “Fans Rule” World Tour The Kansas City Star

Hosting a female Globetrotter is not unusual for Wichita. In fact, the most famous female Globetrotter grew up in the Air Capital and attended North High School. Lynette Woodard won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics, joined the Globetrotters in 1985, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and is in the Guinness Book of Records.

Although she did not get to see Woodard play for the Globetrotters, one of the team’s newest female stars, Joyce Ekworomadu, or “Sweet J,” is excited to play in Woodard’s hometown on Sunday.

“She paved a way for females like myself to play in a predominantly male sport,” Ekworomadu said.

Ekworomadu grew up in the suburbs of Dallas. She played basketball with the neighborhood kids – both boys and girls – almost every day after school. Like Woodard, she played in high school and college.

“I fell in love with the sport,” she said.

Ekworomadu set records at her alma mater, Texas State University. She was the fifth player in the school’s history to record more than 1,500 points and 600 rebounds. Ekworomadu plays for the Nigerian national team and is the 12th female Globetrotter.

“When I am on the court, I put smiles on people’s faces,” Ekworomadu said. “I’m having so much fun.”

Known as Sweet J for her jumping ability, this 5-foot, 10-inch star played point guard and forward in college. This season, the Globetrotters are asking fans to choose some of the rules. Ekworomadu, a star jumper, is excited about the 35-foot four-point shot.

“I’ve made some four-pointers,” she said. “They make it exciting.”

Ekworomadu said she loves the fact that Globetrotters don’t have to be a certain height or a certain gender. “Too Tall” (Jonte Hall), a 5-foot, 2-inch-tall player, will play with Ekworomadu this weekend, as will 6-foot-2 Anthony “Buckets” Blakes.

Blakes, a native of Phoenix, saw the Globetrotters perform, but he remembers them best from the “Scooby Doo” cartoon classic episode that featured Fred “Curly” Neal and “Meadowlark” Lemon. Blakes, like the original Globetrotters, relishes entertaining the fans.

“I enjoy getting the opportunity to make people smile and laugh,” Blakes said.

The point guard also looks forward to mentoring kids and helping with the Globetrotters’ many outreach programs. He uses sports to empower and encourage children. One of 10 siblings, he loves watching children’s faces as he and his teammates perform amazing basketball feats.

In addition to the usual trick shots, the 2014 Fans Rule online ballot features the Hot Hand Jersey, in which both teams will have a special jersey to pass around to any player. When the player is wearing the jersey, all their points double. Along with the special jersey, fans can vote on the make-it-or-miss-it challenge, where two players start the game and every time one of them makes a shot, a new player can join the team.

The team started this season’s tour in Maine in September and will take the court this year in more than 250 cities in 47 states and six Canadian provinces.

“It’s just so much fun,” said Blakes, who has been with the team for a dozen years. “It would be awesome to be with them for another 12 years.”