They call him “Hot Shot” but don’t get misled. Aundre Branch doesn’t sound like an individual with a big ego.
Playing basketball may be part of his job, but he’s not the high-priced millionaire athlete you see on TV. Instead, he’s been spending the past four years entertaining crowds as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters travelling basketball team.
While a passion for basketball is an obvious reason behind playing with the squad, Branch also gets satisfaction out of pleasing fans.
“Actually getting the chance to travel, getting the chance to play basketball, getting the chance to do things that I love to do [is why I’m with the Globetrotters],” he said.
“I love kids, I love being around people and so being able to come to a city, a venue and [be] able to entertain people for two hours, hoping that’ll bring a smile to their face and make them have a great day.”
All of the members of the team have their own nickname. Branch’s came from Globetrotters coach Charles “Tex” Harrison.
“It came about, one of [those] days [during training camp],” said Branch, a 34-year-old native of Houston, Texas. “I had a good day, I didn’t miss a shot. If I missed it, there wasn’t a basket up there.”
Branch said the nickname “Hot Shot” never became official until this year.
Branch played Division 1 basketball at Baylor University, located in Waco, Texas. He graduated from the university with a degree in Communications in 1995.
He left his mark on the basketball court as a two-time, second-team all-conference selection as a member of the Baylor Bears.
Branch recalls his most special moment as a Globetrotter during his second season with the team. Back in Waycor for a game after graduating from college, Branch played with a very ill boy in attendance whose dream was to watch a Globetrotters game. Two days later the boy passed away, and Branch said the situation still sticks with him.
Branch was in Prince George at UNBC last week promoting the upcoming game. He said people are in for excitement when the team hits the court at CN Centre on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Doors for the event open at 6 p.m.
“For the whole two hours you’re going to be fulfilled with entertainment,” he said. “You’re going to see some high flying dunks, a lot of different types of activity … I don’t want to spoil everything, but it’s something you don’t want to miss.”
The Globetrotters were scheduled to start their current tour yesterday in Sacramento, Calif. before working their way up to Prince George. On Wednesday, they’re slated to perform at Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops.
Branch says that even with the action on the court, “I think people are more impressed with our service that we give to the community.”
Community service activities the Globetrotters undertake include visits to schools and universities, hospitals, autograph sessions and radio gigs. Into their 82nd year of touring, the Globetrotters have played in 117 countries in front of more than 120 million fans.
Tickets for the Harlem Globetrotters game at CN Centre range from $15 to $76, not including surcharges. They’re available at all Ticketmaster locations, including the CN Centre, Studio 2880, by phone at 614-9100 or on the Internet at www.ticketmaster.com.