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Globetrotter visits local schools

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Harlem Globetrotter Anthony 'Ant' Atkinson, left, performs for Kierra Dancy's kindergarten class Friday during his visit to Rocky Mount Prep. Atkinson visited local schools, greeting students and staff, to help promote the Globetrotters' appearance at the Rocky Mount Event Center on Nov. 4.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Students at Rocky Mount Prep got a surprise visitor Friday as Harlem Globetrotter Anthony “Ant” Atkinson visited each of the elementary school classrooms. 

The charter school was not the only school that Atkinson toured Friday. He also visited Williford Elementary School and N.C. Wesleyan College before coming to Rocky Mount Prep. The visit was part of an effort to draw attention to the upcoming appearance of the Harlem Globetrotters at the new Rocky Mount Event Center, which officially opens next week.

“The Harlem Globetrotters event will be the first official event at the Rocky Mount Event Center after the grand opening on Oct. 25,” said Ashley Pittman, marketing manager for the Event Center. “We wanted our first event to be something that represented what the Rocky Mount Event Center is all about — family, fun, youth and sports. With the Harlem Globetrotters, we hit all those areas.”

Atkinson actively invited students to come to the Nov. 4 game with their families as he went from room to room, demonstrating his basketball wizardry by performing deft feats of ball handling for students. Some students were unfamiliar with Atkinson but responded with smiles and laughter as Atkinson demonstrated his skills.

Others, however, were clearly in awe of Atkinson’s presence. Rasheik Farmer, 8, responded with tearful amazement and heart-felt hugs as Atkinson entered Ms. Irvine’s third-grade classroom.

“I am his biggest fan,” Farmer said. “I was surprised when he came, but he did a lot of tricks and stuff.”

Atkinson, 34, grew up in Wilson and attended the private Greenfield School during his youth. Atkinson said he has always been known as “Ant.” 

“My dad was ‘Big Ant’ and I was ‘Little Ant,’” he said.

Atkinson then went to Barton College, where he played on the basketball team. It was during his senior year at Barton that he gained the attention of the famed Globetrotters. 

On March 24, 2007, Atkinson led his team to victory in the NCAA Division II National Championship game by scoring 10 points in the last 39 seconds of the game. His performance went viral on YouTube in what the Harlem Globetrotter’s website called “one of the greatest comebacks in college basketball history.” As a result, Atkinson became the first player to be selected in the Harlem Globetrotters’ inaugural player draft.

In the 12 years since Atkinson joined the Globetrotters, his skill has only sharpened. According to information provided by the Harlem Globetrotters, Atkinson and his teammates broke nine Guinness World Record on Nov. 17, 2016. On that day, Atkinson and his teammate, Cheese Chisholm, made 10 shots and tied for most three-pointers made with one ball in one minute. Atkinson broke the Guinness World record for the longest basketball shot made blindfolded at 73 feet, 10 inches.

Since he joined the Globetrotters, Atkinson, who had never traveled outside the United States before joining the team, has played in 80 countries, shot hoops with former President Barack Obama and has made television appearances on several shows.

“I get to play basketball, travel the world for free and make an impact on young lives in a positive way,” Atkinson told the Telegram. “I can’t imagine a better job.”

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