Ambassadors coming here

Published 1:59 pm Friday, February 3, 2012

Harlem Ambassador Lade Majic dances with light welter weight WBO/WBC boxing champion Tim Bradley during a fundraising game. The Harlem Ambassadors on March 19 will be at Southampton High School for a Franklin-Southampton Area United Way fundraiser. -- SUBMITTED

COURTLAND—Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson isn’t playing against the Harlem Ambassadors to relive his glory days on the basketball court.

He’s doing it because the fundraiser will benefit the Franklin-Southampton Area United Way.

“I used to be on the United Way Board of Directors. It’s a great organization,” said Johnson, who during his sophomore year in 1976 played basketball at Franklin High School.

Johnson is among a dozen celebrities and former Southampton and Franklin star-players who will take on the internationally acclaimed Harlem Ambassadors at 7 p.m. Monday, March 19, at Southampton High School. The group is known for its Harlem-style basketball, featuring high-flying slam-dunks, ball-handling tricks and comedy routines.

The Harlem Ambassadors will play against the United Way Heroes. The roster so far includes Franklin Mayor Jim Councill, Franklin Boys’ Basketball Coach and Assistant Coach Danny Dillon and Robby Cutchins, Southampton Academy Boys’ Basketball Coach David Gibbs, Franklin Girls’ Basketball Coach Mona Sumblin and former NFL football player Greg Scott.

Also on the roster will be Ben Dillon, Nancy DeLeonardo, Samantha Jones, Dave Lease, Tim Parsons, David Rabil, Rob Rickman and Phil Wright.

United Way Executive Director Anne Bryant said this year’s drive fell $30,000 short of its $175,000 goal. Among the 28 groups that benefit from the United Way’s are the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Make-A-Wish, Habitat For Humanity, Boys and Girls Club, Scouting, Franklin Cooperative Ministries and Tidewater Youth Services.

“We’re trying to add a little to the campaign fund,” Bryant said. “We are struggling without International Paper. They were a huge support. It’s tough to make that up.”

The board recruited locals to play, including Cutchins, the general manager for Bobby’s Muffler and Tire Pros in Franklin and Emporia. The 31-year-old played for Southampton High School as a junior and senior before graduating in 1999. Cutchins played for Franklin during his sophomore year.

“It’s just a great cause,” he said. “I think it will be fun.”

Gibbs said he’s playing to help the community and because he “lives, eats, breathes and sleeps” basketball.

The 31-year-old has coached the boys at Southampton Academy for four years, including the past two as head coach. He also played for the Raiders during his senior year.

Gibbs is not sure if practices will be held before meeting the Harlem Ambassadors. So when he gets a chance, he practices with the SA team.

“I do certain drills with them,” he said. “This year with nine kids, I get in there and practice with them.”

Tickets for adults are $9 in advance and $11 at the door, and for school-age children, $7 in advance and $9 at the door. Children 4 and under are free.

Tickets can be purchased at Fred’s, YMCA, Boykins Beans and Ice Cream, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at 620-4434, or the United Way office at 569-8929.