The Harlem Ambassadors kicked off the Month of the Military Child on Fort Drum by staging a youth assembly April 1 with the theme, "Stay in School, Stay off Drugs."
The special presentation was geared towards military Families with elementary and middle school students to show the value of an education and a drug-free life.
After the program, more than 1,000 fans came out to witness the Ambassadors take on the Fort Drum Mountaineers in a basketball game for the ages. To even the playing field before the game started, the visiting team spotted the home team 50 points.
"They were very kind to the Fort Drum team," said Michelle Roden, special events coordinator with Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. "We knew it would be a close game, and the 50 points they gave us helped keep it that way.
"It was a lot of fun, and the people seemed to enjoy themselves," she added. "Maybe next time we can spot them and not put so much pressure on the visiting team to score."
The Harlem Ambassadors' goal is to deliver quality basketball shows to audiences throughout the U.S. and around the world. The show is designed to be fun for all ages with a wholesome entertainment product, promoting the values of staying in school, staying off drugs and fostering racial harmony.
"I love dealing with the (youths)," said Lade Majic, Ambassadors team coach. "That is the best part of the event. It makes everything worthwhile."
The Harlem Ambassadors attended their first training camp in September 1998 and played their first game Oct. 10, 1998, in Mountain Home, Idaho.
Since forming, they have performed at numerous venues in the United States and around the world. The team also serves the U.S. military, both domestically and overseas, as a provider of entertainment services to service members worldwide.
The team appeared at several events at no charge to raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and performed for evacuees at a relocation center in Salt Lake City.
Harlem Ambassadors team players included Lade Majic, Ashley Wilson, Jesse Whintly, James Graham, Dominic Melton, Rashad McGee, James Hippolyte, Willie Richard and Antwan Mills.
Fort Drum Mountaineers team players included Peter Queior, Ron Watson, Joel Sovet, Brittany Crosswhite, Jessica Carr, Joaquim Carr, Keith George, Charlene Smith, Crystal Garretson, Mylene Marquez, Jim Puszert, Dan Small, Nikki Losada, Kurt Horton, Jose Soriano Jr., Robert Bobe, Kevin Brown, Josh Lewis and Maurice Jones.
As the game ended, Fort Drum players talked about their experience and how close the game could have been.
"I knew we were in good shape when they showed us they were scared to come out of the locker room during introductions," said Kevin Brown, deputy to the 10th Mountain Division (LI) rear commander. "Unfortunately, they got over that fear about 15 seconds into the game. They're lucky they spotted us 50, or we would have made it tough on them.
"I'm just glad I could contribute to the effort; I never would have dreamed of making three shots tonight. Of course, all three shots were empty Gatorade bottles into the trash can from my position at the end of the bench.
"Seriously, this was a great deal of fun," he added. "There's no doubt the most enjoyable part was watching the (youths) engage with the Ambassadors. The Ambassadors clearly achieved their purpose for being here; it was super. Not only did they entertain the crowd, they delivered a solid message to the children to stay in school and stay off drugs. They are great basketball players and entertainers, but most important, they are phenomenal role models."
After the game, Brown presented the Ambassadors with a plaque and division coins.