Thanks to the Sunbury-Galena Rotary Club, the Harlem Wizards, who played an exhibition game against the Big Walnut All-Stars last year, will return to Big Walnut High School on Tuesday, February 28, for a rematch.
The Harlem Wizards is a family-owned, for-profit company that works strictly for nonprofit organizations, putting on exhibition basketball events against local teams as local fundraisers.
Big Walnut All-Stars Head Coach Angie Pollock acknowledged that the Wizards defeated Big Walnut two years in a row, but said members of the home team are ready for this year’s game and win, lose, or draw are anxious to get some court time with Wizards.
“It’s payback time,” Coach Pollock said. “I know the past two years were hard to take, but Big Walnut athletes never give up. We have a tradition of winning, and we never go into a game expecting to lose. We have made some critical personnel changes, and we’ve been working on defense.”
Members of this year’s Big Walnut All-Stars squad are already in the gym getting in condition under the guidance of Coach Pollock.
They are: from Harrison Street Elementary, Stephanie Kreager and Katy Gantz; from Big Walnut Elementary, Taylor Bojc and Anna Cordas; from Hylen Souders Elementary, Josh Hall and Kelly O’Brien; from General Rosecrans Elementary, Casandra Nigl and Jarrett Wampler; from Big Walnut Intermediate School, Rachel Middleman and Megan Massingill; from Big Walnut Middle School, Julie Ford and Nick Powell; and from Big Walnut High School, Andy Jados and Kayla DeMuth.
Pollock said the new Big Walnut All-Stars lineup should be a potent force against the Harlem Wizards.
“We’ve been scouting the Wizards, and yes, they are exceptional basketball players, but they do have weaknesses and blind spots,” Pollock said. “Our ramped-up defense should be able to hold them in check, and we have a few new members on our squad that will challenge them on the court.”
The Wizards are not coming to Big Walnut unprepared.
- On the court for the Wizards will be 6’7” Dwayne “Swoop” Simpson wearing a triple-O jersey. Simpson is a former Harlem Globetrotter and standout at Bethel and East Central universities.
- Gerald “Sky-Walker” Warrick, wearing the Number 7 jersey, is a 6’4” Point Park University standout who was First-Team All-Conference and All-American who played professionally in Europe.
- Wizards Number 30, Roscoe “Sarge” Johnson Jr. also played with the Globetrotters. The 6’5” Allegany College of Maryland standout is a Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown runner-up and has also been featured in a Foot Locker commercial.
- James “Road Runner” Tyndal, Number 4, is a 5’9” threat that played for Buffalo State University where he was All-Conference and All-Division his junior and senior years.
- James “Hi-Rise” Mitchell, jersey Number 20, is a 6’5” ball handler who attended Buffalo State College.
- At six feet, eight inches, John “Big J” Smith promises to be a threat in the rebound department. After playing basketball for the College of Staten Island, where he was 18th in DIII rebounding, Smith played in 25 countries in a six-year span.
Pollock said the height and experience of the Harlem Wizards Swoop Team is not an issue with the Big Walnut All-Stars.
“I don’t care how much experience and height they have, we’re ready,” Pollock said. “We have a good chance of winning against this team if the officiating is fair and honest.”
This year’s on-court as referees will be Nick Dimitroff, Michael Ford, and Parker Imertreijs.
Opening the game with the National Anthem will be Abigail Myers.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The game begins at 6:30 and will end at 8:25 with autographs immediately after. The concession stand will be open.
Organizers said the first, second, and fourth quarter will include lots of tricks.
During the third quarter the Big Walnut Youth Basketball League coaches will play against the Harlem Wizards and will be a quarter of real basketball.
There will be a Wizards halftime show, and the Third Grade BW Youth Basketball team will play as a halftime show.
Advance ticket sales at Big Walnut High School: $10 for kids, $12 for adults; or $15 for each ticket purchased at the door on game night.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.