There's a reason the Harlem Globetrotters call Tay Fisher "Firefly."
"I was told it was because they thought I lit up as soon as I got on the court," the usually somber Fisher told the Herald during a visit to the Tri-Cities this week. "So the team started calling me Firefly."
Firefly also lights up when he gets around kids. He entertained more than 500 youngsters Monday morning at Southgate Elementary School in Kennewick.
The entertainment included talking to the students about anti-bullying and doing their best in school, as well as monkeying around with a basketball to the snappy beat of Sweet Georgia Brown.
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"I always have a lot of fun with the kids," he said. "I've been doing it since I was in high school. But there's a lot more to being a Globetrotter than fancy tricks with a basketball. It's important to be a good role model, and I take that very seriously."
The Harlem Globetrotters will bring their internationally famous exhibition game to the Tri-Cities on Feb. 20 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. Showtime is 7 p.m.
At 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Fisher is proof you don't have to be 7 feet tall to be an ace Globetrotter.
"I've loved basketball since I was a kid," he said. "But I never thought much about playing it professionally until I got older."
Fisher, 28, grew up in Kingston, N.Y., with parents who were basketball players in high school.
He learned to handle a basketball proficiently, not because of genetics, but because he learned to maneuver the ball on a rocky graveled driveway.
"What's cool about my parents is that they never pushed me into playing basketball," he said. "They let me make my own choices. I think I was about 13 when I fell in love with the sport."
He was a standout guard on the Siena College varsity basketball team when it captured a regional title in 2008.
He was recruited by the Globetrotters five years ago and will play for the team as long as they'll have him, he said. After that, he hopes to be an elementary school teacher.
In the meantime, he'll be Firefly on the court no matter where the Globetrotters perform.
"Since I've been with the team, we've visited about 50 countries and have never been booed by the crowd in one of those places," he said. "It's so cool to connect with so many different cultures."
The strangest place the Globetrotters played during his tenure, Fisher said, was in Libya a few years ago where the rules for women are much different than the rest of the world.
"The crowd loved us there, but it was strange because there were no women in attendance," he said. "I understand that it's their culture and we should respect it, but it was weird to have only men and boys in the stands."
The Feb. 20 exhibition game at the Toyota Center will feature a Fans Rule. Fans get to decide a new rule to add to Globetrotters' basketball game, which could affect the game's outcome.
Tri-Citians can vote from among five special plays: Make or miss; Hot hand jersey; Trick shot challenge; 6 on 5; and Two ball basketball. For an explanation about what those five specialty segments are, go to www.harlemglobetrotters.com/rule and vote for your favorite.
The exhibition game will have the Globetrotters playing the World All Stars team and Fisher said it's a no-brainer what the outcome will be.
"Don't worry about the All Stars team," he said with a smirk. "We'll take 'em."
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal