Rookies put new spin on Harlem Globetrotters’ game

Kenny “Blenda” Rodriguez remembers watching Curly Neal, the legendary star of the Harlem Globetrotters, as a kid.

Today, it’s Rodriguez, 33, who plays the dribbling point guard who confounds his opponents.

He earned the “Blenda” nickname with good reason.

“I make smoothies out of my defenders,” Rodriguez said. “I shake people up on the court.”

Not much has changed about the Harlem Globetrotters’ family fun show.

There are the classic gags, the confetti and the buckets of water.

But this team has new tricks, too. They include four-point shots and new players like Jonte “Too Tall” Hall.

Hall may be just 5-foot-2, but he can stand up alongside fellow rookie 7 foot, 4 inch Jermaine “Stretch” Middleton.

Also new to the team is Fatima “TNT” Maddox, a 5 foot, 6 inch star out of Temple University. She’s the team’s first female player since 1993, the ninth in Globetrotter history.

Another high flyer is Jacob “Hops” Tucker of Illinois College, the Slam Dunk Champion. He has a 50-inch vertical leap.

The team on the other side of the court no longer is the Washington Generals. Instead, either the Global Select or the International Elite face the daunting task of taking on the team in the red, white and blue uniforms.

The good humor and cheer remain as they have during the Globetrotters’ 85-year history.

Rodriguez, who has been on the team for the past five years, said playing pro basketball and serving as an ambassador to kids is fantastic.

“It’s a great experience,” he said. “I’m living my dreams.”

The Harlem Globetrotters are scheduled to take the court at 7 p.m. Saturday at Comcast Arena Everett, 2000 Hewitt Ave., Everett.

Tickets are $18 to $129 at comcastarenaeverett.com or 866-332-8499.

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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