When the Harlem Crowns take to the floor against the Elphi senior boys basketball team next Friday in their latest visit, the night will be about much more than just basketball.
The Cougars are hosting the fundraiser as a salute to Michael Bryant a popular student and member of the team who passed away suddenly last spring.
“He was a total character with an incredible spirit,” said teacher Sarah Mani, who is organizing the event along with the boys’ basketball team. “All proceeds are going to support a bursary in Mike’s name, so we want to fill the gym.”
The game is set for Friday night, Nov. 2. Doors open at 5:30 for the 6 p.m. tip-off. Tickets are $10 in advance available at Marketplace IGA in Gibsons or at the school office, or $12 at the door. Children six and under are free. There will be a small concession available.
The Crowns play something called clownball — it’s new every night with a different set of gags and regular comic routines. The Crowns combine razzle-dazzle ball handling, precision pass-patterns, trick shooting and comedy to give the crowd a great evening of fun for all.
Charles Smith, a former member of the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters for 12 years, organized the Crowns in the late ’50s, and after many years of success, he sold his franchise to a group of northern California businessmen. The Crowns will play a total of 150 games this year in the United States, Canada and Asia.
The Cougars are looking forward to the game, but most importantly, they want to honour and remember Michael.
“Mike was energy. He brought a lot of laughter and joy to the team,” said player Dylan Nemeth. “He loved the game so much. I considered him like a brother, much like everyone on the team. He just had a way of saying things that would bring a room to life. It’s going to be a fun night. We’ll probably get our butts kicked, but hopefully we’ll raise a lot of money. Mike would have loved this.”
Fellow teammate TJ Turrene said Mike was a “real character.”
“He was at the last game the Harlem Crowns played here watching and couldn’t wait to play in the game one day,” said TJ. “Unfortunately, he won’t get to play, but in same way he will play. He’ll be there with us and he’ll have lots of fun.”
Coach Denis Turrene said Michael was — and still is — a big part of the team.
“Basketball made him a part of something,” said Denis. “He worked his butt off all the time whether it was in practice or in a game. What he didn’t poses in athletic ability, he made up for it in hard work and heart and it didn’t hold him back.”
To also honour his memory, the team retired his jersey shortly after his passing, signed it and presented the jersey to his mother. Since then, several members of the team built a shadow box in shop class to properly frame the jersey. The framed jersey will now hang just outside the gym for the remainder of the season in tribute to his memory.