The Harlem Globetrotters are basketball superstars around the world, and now they're famous in Awapuni as well.

There was no sold out arena when the Globetrotters came to the Palmerston North suburb - just a once neglected park call Raleigh Street Reserve.

"We're here with the Harlem Globetrotters in Palmerston North ahead of their April tour of New Zealand," NBL events manager Ben Jopling said, nervously chewing gum and looking around, as if to check he was in the right park.

Awapuni is a low socio-economic suburb of Palmerston North. There are hundreds of modest houses and very few resources or funding. Over the years, their local reserve slipped into disrepair.


"It was one of the last - probably the last park to get done up," said Awapuni resident, Michael George. "So we did a lot of fundraising. Then Steven Adams jumped on board and offered to come and help put a basketball court in here, and now we've got an official sized NBA basketball court here."

With proper hoops in the 'hood, Awapuni has become much more social, expanding to include become a destination.

"We're getting a lot of people coming from all around the place, which we never used to. We never used to have pretty much anyone come - just the locals," George said. "But now we've got a lot of people coming from all over the place."

The new basketball court has put Raleigh Street Reserve on the map - after being opened in August last year by Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams - and organised activities are on the increase, such as visits by international basketball sensations.

"One of the main foundations of basketball is inclusion," said NBL's Jopling. "It's one of the most gender-neutral sports. A lot of sports skew to one gender or the other whereas basketball is all about inclusion whether it be rich, poor, whatever size, shape - everyone can play basketball."

The Harlem Globetrotters are famous for their tricks and showy ball moves. In their distinctive red and blue uniforms, Ice Hrynko and Dragon Taylor got busy shooting hoops and entertaining the local kids.

"I love this, it's amazing," Taylor said. "I'm getting a chance to play in front of all our fans and it's an amazing experience. We're on Steven Adams' court and I had so much fun."

Hrynko is a 5'8" guard from Philadelphia, who also happens to be a woman basketballer.

"The first girl was in 1985. Her name was Lynette Woodard, so she was the first woman to be able to play on a team with all men," she said. "So that's why I'm here."

The Harlem Globetrotters tour New Zealand in April, returning to Palmerston North on April 20th.


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