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In North Chicago, basketball and fun go hand in hand

10/13/2012 North Chicago
Harlem Ambassador DeHughes (3) drives past North Chicago Exchange Club member Jerrell Jones (22) during fundraiser game North

10/13/2012 North Chicago Harlem Ambassador Deon Hughes (3) drives past North Chicago Exchange Club member Jerrell Jones (22) during the fundraiser game at at North Chicago High School on Saturday, October 13, 2012. | michael jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media

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Last Saturday’s event was the third straight year that the Exchange Club of North Chicgo has partnered with the Harlem Ambassadors to bring basketball entertainment to the city.

“We planted the seed three years ago, and the crowd has been growing every year,” said Paula Carballido, president of the Exchange Club. “We wanted to do something that fulfilled our role as a service organization and would also be fun for the families in our community.

“Our goal was to raise $6,000. We’ve done really well. The funds we raise are used to help send local veterans to Washington, D.C. We also have an annual scholarship that goes to a North Chicago High School student. This year’s recipient will be Shadezja Garrett.”

On Saturday, Shadezja participated in the event as mascot Time-Out Teddy for the game.

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Updated: December 18, 2012 2:06AM

The Harlem Ambassadors traveling basketball show made its annual stop at North Chicago High School last Saturday, and entertained a huge crowd with their antics and hoops skills.

Here are some of the sights and sounds of the fun afternoon, courtesy of the Exchange Club of North Chicago, which sponsored the event and is an important service organization for the community.

Despite the name, the club is not affiliated with the Harlem Globetrotters.

The Harlem name goes back to the days before the internet became widespread, being used to signify the style of basketball entertainment road show put on typically by an all-black team.

The Ambassadors take pride in having female players in the team’s leadership roles.

Lade Majic, who is believed to have played in more “show” basketball games than any woman in history, is the team’s vice president and head coach, and also plays with the “guys” on the court. Majic performed at North Chicago on Saturday along with fellow female player KiAngela Smith.

One new Ambassador, 6-0 guard Deon Hughes, grew up in Chicago, played for Collins High School, and currently resides in North Chicago.

“It’s great to be able to give back to the kids. I’m an example that it’s possible to come from a background like I grew up in Chicago or like they grow up here and be successful,” said Hughes. “It’s cool to be able to travel the world and do what I love to do — play basketball —and get a little bit goofy at the same time.”

Ambassadors players are college grads and are required to stay drug free.

The Ambassadors are officially based out of Fort Collins, Colorado.

But team president and executive producer Dale Moss moved to Highwood for family and health reasons and has opened what he calls a “branch office” in Lake Bluff that he hopes will help the team in its efforts to recruit new players and locate sponsors interested in being involved with the Ambassadors’ community service and fund-raising efforts.

The team, which performs daily eight months out of the year, held its training camp in Great Lakes and has established a close relationship with the North Chicago co mmunity.

As part of their training-camp agreement, the Ambassadors host a series of “Stay in School, Stay off Drugs” presentations at North Chicago schools. Last week they visited North School and South School.

On Saturday, the Ambassadors played the North Chicago Exchange Club All-Stars; the All-Stars consisted of members in area communities who were able to raise the sponsorship money to participate and included police officers, firemen, and political officials.

The Exchange Club is a service organization that helps promote and support various patriotic and community-improvement efforts, including youth organizations, international relations.

Final score: Harlem Ambassadors 70 North Chicago Exchange Club All-Stars 46

It was 20-2 after one quarter.

During play, the Ambassadors would spontaneously break into a routine, often playing off the players of the All-Stars team.

When All-Stars players shot an airball, for example, the Ambassadors players made them do a number of pushups equal to the number on their jersey.

During the quarter and halftime breaks, the Ambassador facilitated games with children, such as “You Are Out” where participants were eliminated when they dropped a pass.

Team president Dale Moss on having female players in lead roles:

“Having female players in the showcase and leadership roles is something that no group like ours has done,” he said. “Lade Majic does such a great job. Everybody leaves here feeling like they know her personally.

“That’s the type of experience we can offer in a more intimate setting like this. It’s also great for the girls who will grow up to be basketball players, seeing that they can play with the guys. If they’re going to be good, that’s what they’re going to do anyway. Pat Summit (women’s coach at the University of Tennessee) had her team practicing against men at Tennessee, and that’s filtered throughout college basketball and now down into high schools.”

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