By Monique Harrison

Daily Journal

Pierce Street Elementary fourth-grader James Long learned a trick shot from longtime Harlem Globetrotter guard B.J. Mason during a 30-minute workshop Friday at Verona School.

But the dark-haired 9-year-old picked up more than basketball tips from the man who is world famous for his two-handed set bank shot.

“I learned that when someone messes with you, you walk away,” said Long, who was among about 125 students from four school districts attending the workshop. “And if someone tells me not to like someone, I shouldn’t do it. One time I did that. I shouldn’t.”

“I learned that if someone doesn’t like you, you should go be with someone else,” added Long’s classmate, 10-year-old Rashad Waldrop.

That message of peace is exactly what the Harlem Globetrotter’s goodwill ambassador wanted students to grasp.

The 59-year-old Centralia, Ill., native emphasized what he sees as a need to set aside racial differences.

“Did anyone here talk to anyone before they were born?” Mason asked the group, who immediately fell silent, waiting for an answer. “No, you didn’t. And neither did I. That means that none of us had anything to do with what we look like – what color we are or anything else. You have to work with what you get.

“I’ll never understand people who go around hating someone else because they don’t have the same color skin – because they don’t look the same. That’s ridiculous – senseless.”

Mason said he thinks an increase in the number of young adults having heart attacks might be linked to a society where hatred is rampant.

“If you go around mad all the time, it has an affect on your heart,” he said. “You have all that stress on your heart, and it’s bad for you. It’s sad.”

Mason encouraged the youngsters to set goals and do everything necessary to reach them.

“If you aspire to be a basketball play or a football player or a writer – whatever – then there is a lifestyle that comes with that,” the Bradley University graduate degree. “You have to work hard. And like it or not, you have to have a lot of knowledge to do it. You have to stay in school. No one wants a dumb ballplayer anymore. Everyone wants someone with some smarts in ’em. So you should get those smarts. You must.”

He cautioned against selling drugs.

“Young people are dropping out of school left and right and I know why,” he said. “It’s because they see they can make the quick bucks without an education. You know what I’m talking about. Right then, it might seem like a good idea. But it’s not.”

Mason said an educational system that he thinks lacks discipline also makes growing up in the ’90s an uphill battle.

“In my days, if you fell asleep in class, someone knocked you in the head,” he said. “You didn’t like it, but you stayed awake in class. And you listened to your teachers. Today, that’s what they call child abuse. Then, it wasn’t that at all. Today, your teachers can’t do that much and you know that – use it as a crutch. But you should know that they care about you, and they are here to help.”

The Harlem Globetrotters, the team that Mason spent 12 years traveling with, will be performing at the Tupelo Coliseum Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range in price from $10 to $18 and are available through the Coliseum Box Office and all regular Ticket King Outlets.

Tickets can also be purchased by phone at 841-6528 using Visa, MasterCard or Discover. A $2 discount is available to anyone 55 and older or 12 and under. Discounts are also available for groups of 20 or more.

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