He may be 6-foot-8 but he’s all ears. This Harlem Globetrotter is on a mission

Julian “Zeus” McClurkin worked for years to finally make the cut for a basketball team.

After he grew 5 inches taller, the coaches weren’t as quick to cut him, but they told the young man he was too nice.

Even though the 6-foot-8 McClurkin loved being on the basketball court, he wasn’t going to stop being nice.

Now a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, he passes that message on to any kid who will listen. And about 700 Tri-City students were all ears Friday at Amon Creek Elementary School.

“If you’re a nice person, stay a nice person.” he told them. “Don’t let people try to change you and tell you that you have to be mean if you want to make it in this world.”

“I could have changed who I was a long time ago to try and be that, but I never would have had the opportunity to play for the Harlem Globetrotters,” he said.

Globetrotter header
Fourth-grader Stefani Patko passes the basketball to Harlem Globetrotter Julian “Zeus” McClurkin by bouncing it off her head during Friday’s anti-bullying assembly at Amon Creek Elementary School. Teacher Jamie Whitmire watches. Watch a video at: Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

It was part of McClurkin’s larger message about preventing violence and bullying.

The Globetrotters and the National Campaign to Stop Violence have partnered on the anti-bullying campaign. The message uses the acronym TEAM — talk, empathy ask a question and mobilize.

He urged students to talk to people they trust about what is bothering them and to sympathize and understand how others are feeling.

He also encouraged them to reach out to him through social media if they were struggling.

After visiting dozens of schools, McClurkin said students have taken advantage of his offer to share their stories with him.

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Julian “Zeus” McClurkin of the Harlem Globetrotters picks a volunteer participant for Friday’s anti-bullying assembly from the approximate 700 students at the Amon Creek Elementary School. Watch a video at: Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

“I think it’s what we do off the court that really matters,” he said in an interview after the assembly.

“A lot of people talk, but nobody really gives an ear to listen. We’re hoping to help these kids talk and listen,” he said.

The Globetrotters are playing at the Toyota Center in Kennewick at 7 p.m. on Nov. 13. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.