WILDWOOD - Seventy-five would-be Harlem Globetrotters dribbled, shot and passed their way around the court Wednesday during a Harlem Globetrotters basketball clinic at the Wildwoods Convention Center.
"She really, really, really enjoys and loves basketball," said Jean Augustino, a North Wildwood resident and grandmother of Noelle Ross, 7.
Noelle, shy when approached by a reporter, wasn't shy on the court.
She practiced dribbling even before she was handed the ball and kept her eyes on female Globetrotter TNT Maddox as she led the children in her group through a lesson on dribbling.
The future Globetrotters, children ages 6 to 14, spent time with four members of this year's team - High-lite Bruton, Maddox, Flip Atkins and the team’s standout player, literally, 7-foot 4-inch tall Stretch Middleton - in a two-hour long clinic held while the team is in town for four games being held at the convention center.
""It's very important for the community to have something like this. I just think it's wonderful to have this type of experience for them along with the grownups," Augustino said.
She was one of dozens parents and grandparents snapping photos as the children spent time with the players.
Augustino said the event was a good way to put the center to use.
John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, said mid-week and midday events like the clinic were something the center wants to attract.
The Harlem Globetrotters regularly came here in the winter, but in 2011 added four summer shows. This year, they continued the summer performances and Siciliano said the clinic was added for what was initially one day. A second clinic, being held today, was later added.
"That was something we felt great about," Siciliano said.
Siciliano said the center is trying to add more mid-week events, such as the dance competitions held here in the summer, to expand its offerings and in turn benefit local businesses.
"The more the building can start to do mid-week the better off we will be and the community will be," he said.
Augustino said it also offered another way for not only visitors, but also residents to make use of the beachfront convention center.
"Being a resident here, it's very important to see the different functions come down and participate in the community," Augustino said.
Noelle, meanwhile, stayed focused on the game.
Maddox gave the children a chance to learn how to dribble like the Globetrotters famous player Curly Neal.
Dribbling the ball as she sat on the court, Maddox then laid down and used her feet to turn her self in a circle, still dribbling.
The children, including Noelle, tried it with mixed results, but all of them kept going.
"Just try it. Try it. You can do it," Maddox told them.