Countless children dream of turning their love for a sport into a professional career. Graduate Derick Grant is one of the fortunate and talented few that turned his dream of playing basketball for a living into reality.
When Grant was 7 years old his father took him to see the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters. The experience sparked Grant’s love for the game.
“I remember that at the game, my father bought me a Globetrotters mini-basketball,” Grant said. “I played with it so much that before I knew it the red, white and blue ball was worn out and colorless.”
When he returned to the area at Sovereign Bank Arena on March 10 as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Grant took advantage of the chance to entertain and brighten the lives of a new generation of children.
“When I was 7 years old, I looked up to the Globetrotters and thought, ‘Wow, they are so cool, it would be a great opportunity to be like them one day,'” Grant said. “Now, I am blessed to be in a position where kids come up to me and look up to me. It is an honor and I definitely do not take it for granted.”
After being scouted at a basketball camp in Florida, Grant was offered a job with the New York Nationals (the Globetrotters’ usual opponents). His play for the Nationals impressed management enough to earn him a spot on the Globetrotters’ roster.
Recognized around the world as ambassadors of goodwill, the Globetrotters have traveled from city to city for the past 81 years captivating audiences and promoting a positive environment for younger fans.
In addition to playing games, players routinely visit elementary schools in an effort to promote the importance of character development. A Globetrotter is not only a basketball player, but an enthusiastic role model for children, charged with the responsibility of instilling positive life lessons.
“(Derick) is very personable and outgoing; that is one of the reasons why we like him,” Globetrotters head coach Mike St. Julien said. “This is his first year with the team so he is learning and doing a great job.”
Prior to the game on March 10, Grant and three other Globetrotters presented to the young crowd the organization’s C.H.E.E.R. for Character Program. The acronym C.H.E.E.R. stands for cooperation, healthy mind & body, effort, enthusiasm and responsibility. Using only a basketball and their engaging humor, Grant and his teammates entertained the crowd while promoting these characteristics to the young audience.
Aside from basketball, Grant and the Globetrotters incorporated hilarious player commentary and on-court interaction with the fans. The experience was marked by periods of uncontrollable laughter from the fans and incredible athleticism.
After the game, fans were allowed to come down to the court. Grant and the Globetrotters took the time to sign hundreds of autographs.
“Sometimes I forget about what I do and I go out and someone asks me for my autograph,” Grant said. “It is a great feeling to be recognized and to be approached like that.”
Before graduating in 2005, Grant participated in 101 games and started 72. He netted a career average of 15.3 points per game and was named an All-American after his senior year. His speed, ball handling skills and shooting talents helped Grant become the third-leading scorer in Lions history with 1,543 points.
When asked what was the most useful thing that he learned while playing for head coach John Castaldo and the Lions, Grant responded by saying “patience.”
“I was a pretty good scorer in high school and then I came to college freshman year and did not play much,” Grant said. “Coach just told me to be patient and that my time would come. Patience helps when you are on the road for four months straight, playing every day. You never know what is going to happen from game to game.”
Already contemplating life after basketball, Grant says he might pursue becoming a pilot when his playing days are over.
“I’m definitely interested in pursuing becoming a pilot after my career is over with; when it will be over with I can’t say now, but it is definitely something that interests me.”
The immediate future for Grant involves traveling around the country, promoting the game of basketball and goodwill to the next generation.