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‘Pure entertainment’: Harlem Wizards bringing basketball skills and comedy to Westminster High School

Harlem Wizards "King Arthur" dances with spectators during their show at Westminster High School Tuesday March 13, 2018.
Harlem Wizards "King Arthur" dances with spectators during their show at Westminster High School Tuesday March 13, 2018.(Ken Koons/Carroll County Times / Carroll County Times)

With basketball hoops, funny moves and alley-oops, look for comedy on the court at Westminster High School at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 16, when the world-famous Harlem Wizards face off with a team of Carroll County educators and community leaders in a game that is sure to thrill.

“We are thrilled to host the Wizards," said Rose Kendig, president of the Westminster High School Instrumental Music Boosters. “We expect the Wizards game to help us reach our annual fundraising goal of more than $40,000 for the Westminster High School music program!”

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According to their website at www.harlemwizards.com, the energy at a Wizards game is electric, the laughter infectious and the dunks rim-rattling. This is because, unlike most basketball teams, the Harlem Wizards’ major goal is to entertain the crowd. The Wizards have played in over 25 foreign countries on five continents, including over 15,000 games throughout the United States, raising over $25 million for schools and charitable causes, according to press materials from the team.

It is not the first time the Wizards have visited Westminster High School, and many of local educators who played in 2018 have signed up to do it again.

“I had a lot of fun playing the last time the Wizards played at Westminster High School,” said Brian Thompson, instrumental music director at Westminster Elementary School. “It was great to be on the court with the Wizards and hear our former students cheer us on. I really enjoyed meeting and teaming up with other teachers in the county for a good cause, and I can’t wait to do it again.”

The Harlem Wizards' number 26 "Hang Time" flips upside down after dunking the ball Tuesday during the team's show at Westminster High School.
The Harlem Wizards' number 26 "Hang Time" flips upside down after dunking the ball Tuesday during the team's show at Westminster High School.(Carroll County Times)

Thompson said he is especially excited to be doing this to benefit the WHS Instrumental Music Boosters.

“As an instrumental music director and a former WHS assistant marching band director, this is an organization that means a lot to me,” he said.

Melissa Caltrider has also played in the past and was quick to sign up again. She works in behavioral support at Sandymount Elementary School.

“I had a blast,” she said of the last time she joined the game. “I enjoy giving the kids a good laugh, and I think it is a great opportunity for the students to see me in a different light. I think they will enjoy watching me play against a group of professional basketball players, especially since basketball is not one of my strengths!”

Kendig recalled attending a Wizards game for the WHS Class of 2019 two years prior.

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Cranberry Station Elementary School's Aimee Kilgore trys unsucessfully to get the ball away from Harlem Wizards' King Arthur.
Cranberry Station Elementary School's Aimee Kilgore trys unsucessfully to get the ball away from Harlem Wizards' King Arthur.(Ken Koons/Carroll County Times / Carroll County Times)

“It brought together so many different members of the community, was a great show, and it made a lot of money. As the new president of the Westminster High School Instrumental Music Boosters, I wanted to reinvigorate the fundraising events and look for new and unique ways to make money,” she said of why she worked to bring them back again. “Raising more than $40,000 each year to support all the instrumental music program ensembles at Westminster High School is a big task. That’s why we started Food Truck Sundays, which will begin again on April 19. I decided to take a chance and host a Harlem Wizards game.”

According to Kendig, the Instrumental Music Boosters (IMB) include the families of students who participate in any of the instrumental music program ensembles at the high school.

“Boosters plan, organize, raise money and generally look after your students even when you aren’t there,” she said. “We are volunteers who rely on all parents to contribute a helping hand.”

Brian Frazier, instrumental music teacher at Westminster High, spoke of the importance of the IMB.

“The Westminster Instrumental Music Boosters are essential to the Westminster High School Instrumental Music Program,” he said. “Their support allows us to give many opportunities to students that are beyond what can be covered by the school budget. The fundraising done by the IMB helps us to maintain both a wide variety and high level of activities in the Westminster High School Instrumental Music Program.”

Kendig spoke with excitement about the game, noting that Sheriff Jim DeWees has signed up to play, too. She said the Wizards are known for getting the crowd involved, sometimes bringing kids out onto the floor to be part of a basketball trick or a comedy act. To add to the fun, before the game, any child or teen with a Wizards jersey can warm up with the Wizards. Throughout the game, audience members will be asked to volunteer in different contests and acts, and in the final moments at the end of the night there will be an invitation to students to come onto the court for a dance celebration with the Wizards.

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Concessions sold at the event will include pizza, hot dogs, chips, popcorn, candy, soda and water.

“And we will also be selling Wizards wear and souvenirs at the game,” Kendig added.

Ticket prices are as follows: student admission $12; general admission $15; reserved admission $20; and Courtside Plus $35. Courtside Plus ticket holders get first-row seating and meet privately with some of the Wizard players before the game for a meet-and-greet.

Thompson noted how he was the assistant marching band director at Westminster High School from 2012 to 2014. He said that makes him excited to return to the school and to help give back to the program.

“The last time I played, I was completely afraid of looking like too much of a fool in front of a packed gymnasium,” Thompson said. “Now that I’ve done it once, I’m looking forward to getting out there and showing off how my basketball skills have made zero progress over the last two years. Expect the unexpected in this game. There are many parts of the game that the Wizards have scripted for themselves that we’re not told about. We play along and make it all work. I think the students will love what they see. The whole event is pure entertainment, from the theatrics to the talent of the Wizards players.”

To purchase tickets, to see who has signed up to play, and for more information, visit www.owlband.org.

Order a jersey to wear to the game or learn more about the Wizards at www.harlemwizards.com.

Westminster High School is located at 1225 Washington Road. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. game on March 16.

Lois Szymanski covers Finksburg, Gamber, Pleasant Valley, Reese, Sandymount, Silver Run, Smallwood, Union Mills and Westminster. Reach her at 443-293-7811 or LoisSzymanski3@hotmail.com.

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