By Curt Yeomans
TyRone "Hollywood" Brown was cut from the Harlem Globetrotter's training camps 15 times before he finally embarked on an 11-year career with the team.
Brown, who played for the team from 1985 to 1996, would try out for the team, get enough looks to earn an invitation to training camp, but kept getting cut. He never gave up, though, and eventually earned his way on to the team by going to play for a rival team, the Washington Generals.
After one game against the Globetrotters, Brown got a locker room visit from Harlem's coach.
He was invited to join the team, and his decade of doing tricks with basketballs, such as spinning the ball, rolling it on his shoulders and arms and dribbling in front of, and behind, his body began.
Brown, a native of Savannah, came to Hawthorne Elementary School on Wednesday to encourage students to never give up.
"Today's young generation needs to hear about perseverance," Brown said. "I know a lot of times, they will make up excuses, such as 'It's too hard', or 'I don't have time,' and just give up without trying ... The most important thing is stressing character. There are a lot of negative activities going on in schools these days, such as shootings, and bullying, and gangs.
"If you could instill a sense of character in these kids, a lot of these problems wouldn't happen."
Brown visits about 200 schools a year to give students anti-drug, anti-bullying, perseverance, and anti-gang messages. He said his trip to Hawthorne was his first school visit in Georgia in about three years. He mixed displays of Harlem Globetrotter-style ball handling skills with his talk about never giving up in the face of adversity.
"Kids are always mesmerized by Harlem Globetrotter [tricks]," Brown said. "I was mesmerized when I was a kid. I can speak for three hours and never lose their attention, because they are mesmerized by the Harlem Globetrotters' image."
Brown taught four unnamed basketball passes to fifth-grader, Aaron Harris, during a presentation for the school's third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. The passes included tricks, such as passing the ball under a leg, and rolling the ball up one arm, across the ball handler's chest and down the other arm. It also included using the ball handler's back, instead of his or her hands, to pass the ball to another person.
"The hardest part was when I had to pass the ball off my back, because it was hard to do," said Harris, who plans to use the newly acquired skills with his friends in pick-up games of basketball.
Fellow fifth-grader, Jerald Moorer, got to participate in a demonstration of how to spin a ball of the tip of a single finger. Brown got the ball's spin started and gently transferred it to Moorer's finger. Meanwhile, Brown used his other hand to hold Moorer's arm steady so the ball would continue to spin without falling to the floor.
"It was exciting to do that, but it was hard to do," Moorer said. The pupil said he gained a more valuable lesson from Brown than how to spin a ball on the tip of a finger, though.
"I learned to believe in yourself and go for what you want," Moorer said.