It wasn’t planned, but Harlem Globetrotter Julian “Zeus” McClurkin doesn’t think it is a coincidence he was in town spreading an anti-bullying message as the Penticton 2016 BC Winter Games got underway.
“I don’t think anything is coincidence. Everything happens for a reason. There’s a reason we’re doing this initiative this year, there’s a reason the BC Games is happening at this time and Pink Shirt Day was yesterday, which I just learned about. It all works out and it all works out for a reason,” McClurkin said.
McClurkin was in town talking to students and BC Winter Games athletes, as well as spreading the message of the Globetrotters’ ABCs of Bullying campaign commemorating the 90th year of the Harlem Globetrotters.
McClurkin came to Penticton in advance of the rest of the Globetrotters team, who are performing at the South Okanagan Events Centre Feb. 29, to promote the Great Assist initiative in hopes to getting kids to make assists outside the basketball court.
“We’re known for our ball handling and our passing ability, an assist is a great pass to help somebody else score, to help somebody else in life. That’s what the Great Assist is. We’re helping other people, spreading our message of goodwill,” McClurkin said.
McClurkin doesn’t have a hard time relating to adversity; he has faced struggles to get to where he is today, including exercise-induced asthma.
“It’s easy, I just tell my story. I didn’t make my first basketball team until 11th grade. I got cut in seventh grade all the way to 10th grade. Summer of 10th grade I drank a lot of milk and ended up making my first basketball team,” McClurkin said. “A lot of people told me I was too nice to play basketball, turns out the Globetrotters pay me to be a nice guy. It ended up working out for me and I tell people everywhere just be yourself don’t change who you are. If you’re a nice person don’t let anybody change that.”
On Feb. 25 McClurkin mingled with some of the athletes at the BC Winter Games during a dinner held at the South Okanagan Events Centre, and during the day he brought up some local Winter Games athletes to perform a trick during a presentation at Skaha Lake Middle School.
Tiffany Bjorndal, competing in Special Olympics basketball this weekend, had no idea she would get called up to perform a basketball trick with McClurkin.
“I was shocked. I didn’t expect to be asked. I thought he would ask one of the other athletes or one of the other volunteers,” Bjorndal said.
Bjorndal is looking forward to the weekend with the Games competitions getting underway Friday.
“I’m excited, I’ve been excited for a long time,” said Bjorndal, a South Okanagan native. She has been training and practising for a year in advance of the Games.
“It’s neat, it almost feels like the Olympics, just having everybody come from all over the whole province,” she said.
Greg Ovenden, another basketball Special Olympian competing this weekend, was also called up to help McClurkin out with a trick. He wasn’t expecting to get pulled out of the crowd either.
“Pretty crazy,” Ovenden said. “I loved (McClurkin).”
Ovenden grew up in Penticton and said he’s excited to have the province come to town for the Games.
“It feels awesome representing our hometown,” Ovenden said.
McClurkin had some words of advice for athletes competing in the Games: “always be coachable. Listen to anybody that wants to give you any type of advice because it’s free to listen, doesn’t cost you any money. Anybody who wants to give you any type of information or knowledge, they obviously care about you a little bit. Not just your coaches, but listen to your parents or your teachers, it can bode well for you. I played a lot of minutes over people who are better athletes than me, better players because I listen to the coach and he knew he could trust me with his plan and his philosophy because I was coachable.”