With antics ranging from dancing, wrestling and pantsing, the Harlem Ambassadors beat the Central Texas Starzz 117-89 Saturday at Copperas Cove High School. But the Ambassadors brought more than game, they also offered a message to attendees.
To be an Ambassadors player, each member must adhere to two strict rules — be drug-free and have a college degree.
The Ambassadors’ goal is to foster goodwill and be the best role models they can.
“We’re just that — traveling role models,” said Cherie Hughes, number zero on the Ambassadors. “We try to convey a positive message through basketball and to let kids know there is more to us than just playing basketball.”
In existence since 1998, the Ambassadors have played more than 2,000 games in 23 countries. They also perform at drug-free assemblies and are the No. 1 provider of entertainment for soldiers stationed overseas, playing more than 300 shows at more than 120 locations.
At Saturday’s game, the Ambassadors’ bench was filled with local children cheering for the visiting team. They participated in various games and activities from musical chairs to a dance off.
At halftime, crowd noise was used to determine if the Starzz were spotted 40 points. The team also pulled a reluctant fan from the seats to perform the Village People’s YMCA dance for extra points.
Back on the court, the Ambassadors showed off high flying dunks and trick passes. Ambassadors grabbed Starzz’s players arms and even wrestled them to the ground.
Every quarter ended with a flurry of trick passes culminating in an alley-oop dunk by Ambassadors player Michael Hill.
“I really liked it,” said 7-year-old Hannah Perry. “My favorite part was when they pulled (Hill’s) pants down. That was really funny. I also liked the part where they wrestled.”
In an attempt to stop the Ambassadors’ high-flying exploits, the Starzz recruited Brig. Gen. Dean Milner, Canadian deputy commander of III Corps and Fort Hood.
“I love being part of the community,” Milner said. “It’s just outstanding here. The support of the military here is the best I’ve ever seen, and I love to be a part of it. I do need to play more hockey though.”
The Ambassadors gave Milner a signed ball, but he had to do his “coolest walk” to earn it.
After a crash course in the “lean-back” dance, Milner did his best to saunter his way to the prize.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” he said. “It sure was fun though.”