Slammin’ for a good cause

Harlem Ambassadors player Daytona Burch soars for a dunk during a fund-raising game in Texas. The Ambassadors will be in Bremerton Monday. - Photo courtesy of Copperas Cove
Harlem Ambassadors player Daytona Burch soars for a dunk during a fund-raising game in Texas. The Ambassadors will be in Bremerton Monday.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Copperas Cove

The Harlem Ambassadors rattle rims for show, when the lights snap on and their high-tops glow.

They are high-flying basketball stars who combine ariel flair with athleticism and skill. They hammer slam-dunks and zip across the hardwood, catching alley-oops and igniting give-and-goes.

“It’s not your grandfather’s basketball show,” the team’s motto aptly states.

Fourteen members strong, the Ambassadors are coming to Bremerton to participate in a fund-raiser basketball game Monday at Bremerton High School. The team also will host assemblies at Ridgetop and Kingston Junior High Schools and Mountain View Middle School to encourage the community’s youth to stay in school and off drugs.

The traveling hoops squad visits more than 200 communities annually, working in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, the military and other service groups. This is their 12th year of existence.

“It feels good to be able to provide quality entertainment and create memories that the fans will take with them,” said Ambassadors President Dale Moss. “We’re able to give even more when we can help provide funding for a Habitat for Humanity house or new computers for the school library. And that feels great.”

Each member of the mixed-gender Ambassadors — there are 10 men and four women — is a college graduate with competitive basketball experience. Coach Lade Majic, a University of Missouri grad, played 13 seasons professionally.

Team members are required to be drug-free and are put through an extensive background check prior to earning a roster spot.

“We look for good citizens, first and foremost,” Moss said. “Our players not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk.”

Monday’s game was spearheaded by the Bremerton (Central) Lions Club.

The club helped found the Kidney Dialysis Center and the Cardio Heart and Lung Institute of Kitsap County and has made contributions to YMCA, the Admiral Theatre, Olympic College and Harrison Medical Center. It also helps individuals pay for eye examinations and glasses, hearing aids and scholarships, among others, as well as supporting local food banks and the Salvation Army.

There are nearly 40,000 Lions Clubs nationwide.

“I am always amazed at the accomplishments of our club each year,” said member Margie Torbon, the project chairwoman for the Ambassadors’ visit. “We even have members who will carry corneal tissue from Seattle to Harrison Hospital for eyesight restorative surgery nearly every weekend.”

The Lions Club recruited community members to line up opposite the Ambassadors for the game.

Included on the 15-member “community” roster: Lester “Flip” Herndon, Bremerton School District superintendent; Greg Lynch, Central Kitsap School District superintendent; Spike Hopper, Bremerton firefighter and Klahowya boys basketball coach; Steve Boyer, Kitsap County sheriff; Chris Visserman, Cougar Valley Elementary principal; and Scott Alexander, director of golf at Gold Mountain Golf Complex.

With a few practices under their belt, the community team is building chemistry and preparing for what figures to be an entertaining game.

“At 53 years old, I think the game is very much for fun,” Alexander said, laughing. “And I’m one of the younger guys ... But what (the Ambassadors) are doing, it’s a great thing.”

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