Eight-year-old Joey Cline watched in amazement as Harlem Globetrotter Slick Willie Shaw spun a basketball on his finger for what seemed like eternity.
“My dad could never spin a basketball that long even if he practiced all the way up to midnight tonight,” Joey said.
Shaw, 30, showed off his skills in the gymnasium of Old Bethpage Elementary School Wednesday morning for hundreds of first, second and third graders. But the message he was trying to deliver was about much more than basketball.
Shaw, a Bronx native who has played with the Globetrotters for eight seasons after starting for four years at St. John’s, was there to promote the C.H.E.E.R. for Character program. C.H.E.E.R. stands for Cooperation, Healthy Mind and Body, Effort, Enthusiasm and Responsibility. The Globetrotters developed the program, which is aimed toward 6- to 12-year-old students, in 2004 with assistance from the U.S. Department of Education.
“Kids should set goals and believe in themselves,” Shaw said. “We encourage kids to get out and play, eat healthy food, hand their homework in on time, clean their room and be responsible.”
Shaw showed kids how to pass the basketball, roll it between their legs and spin it on their fingers. While talking about perseverance he brought up Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin.
“He was almost cut from the team but through hard work and determination, look at him now,” Shaw said. “You have to always believe in yourself.”
Old Bethpage Elementary School Principal Suzanne Gray was thrilled about Shaw’s appearance at the school.
“The C.H.E.E.R program supports what we are teaching at the school,” Gray said. “We have a theme for every month which includes empathy, respect, tolerance. Last month was compassion.”
The Harlem Globetrotters play at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Pictured above: Harlem Globetrotter Slick Willie Shaw teaches 7-year-old Samantha Tesoriero one of his favorite skills, spinning a basketball on one finger. (Feb. 15, 2012)