Entertainment tonight

Ambassadors provided more than a game of hoops for an estimated 600 fans

The Harlem Ambassadors promised an entertaining basketball show for those who came to watch. By the applause, smiles and length of the autograph line at the end of the game, it appeared as if the hoopsters had fulfilled their promise.

"It was really cool that they got the crowd involved," said Andrew Keadle, who won an autographed picture for winning a musical chairs competition between the first and second quarter. "They had me do my coolest walk for the crowd after I won and I hope it will help me get the girls."

A majority of the estimated 600 people in attendance at the Moffat County High School gymnasium probably didn't remember that the final score was 77-50, with the Ambassadors defeating the Moffat County All Stars. What they did remember were the high-flying dunks and the games played when the action was stopped.

"All the alley oops and slam dunks were fun to watch," said Ian Forgay. "You don't get to see that much action in a regular basketball game in Craig."

As for the local All Stars, Mike LeWarne and company hoped to put up more of a fight.

"Well it was a tie game before the tip off," LeWarne said. "I'm glad it was a fun time for everybody and while some of it was at our expense, we knew that would probably be the case coming in."

The Ambassadors came to Craig as a well-traveled team in the past couple of weeks. On Friday, they were in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and they hopped on a plane and flew back to America for a Saturday performance in Granby, Colo.

"It's been a big adjustment for us because the air was so thick in Puerto Rico," said Claude Davis, a.k.a. Smooth. "When we were playing in Granby, we were up on the mountain and it felt like we were in heaven."

In addition to entertaining the crowd, the Ambassadors hope to set a good example as well.

"When you look at our players, their appearance is a lot more like a David Robinson than an Allen Iverson," said Dale Moss, president and general manager of the Ambassadors. "The players are drug-free and they're all college graduates.

"The girls can also look up to Alicia and Chante because they are out there competing against guys and it shows the females that if they work hard they can compete too."

Smooth is one of the newest Ambassadors, joining the team in August, but with 80 games under his belt, he said he has seen a lot.

"I think the small-town crowds get into it more," he said. "This is a unique experience for them because they don't get to see a lot of dunks during their basketball games, whereas the bigger cities expect big dunks because they've seen it before."

He was somewhat impressed by the competition he faced in Craig.

"They made us work more than a lot of small-town teams," he said. "They had some guys who could play and it helps sometimes when the local team makes some plays too."

For MCHS Athletic Director Jim Loughran the night was what he had hoped for.

"It was a great family night for the town," he said. "Craig needs more family opportunities like this one."

With approximately 600 tickets sold, the fund raising for the weight room was kick started as well.

"It's a start," he said. "I hoped to see some more of the stands filled but I was pleased with how everything went."

As the gym emptied and only a handful of fans remained, the Ambassadors were still out on the court talking, posing for pictures and lifting children up to dunk the ball.

"I think what I enjoy the most is that I get to play basketball and make people smile at the same time," said Smooth.

"Sometimes I can't believe that it's my job."

From the look on Angelo Raftopoulos' faced after being lifted by two of the Ambassadors to dunk, it looked like at least he thought it was a job well done.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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