Ex-Cat Alleyne enjoying the view as 'Skyscraper'

jclay@herald-leader.com,John ClayApril 15, 2009 

  • Saturday

    What: Harlem Globetrotters game, featuring former UK player Shagari "Skyscraper" Alleyne

    Where: Rupp Arena

    When: 7 p.m.

    Tickets: Prices range from $18.50 to $95 (Special kids tickets $13.50). Available through Ticketmaster.com.

He's no longer Shagari Alleyne.

He's Skyscraper Alleyne.

And the former University of Kentucky Wildcat is trying to use his 7-foot-3 frame not as a ticket to the deadly serious NBA, but as a focal point for goodwill and entertainment as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Saturday night, the Globetrotters will bring their Sweet Georgia Brown brand of basketball to Rupp Arena, the same building where Alleyne toiled for three seasons as a Wildcat.

"Someone told me earlier today it might spark up a little bit of nostalgia," said Alleyne. "And it just might do that."

Tuesday, Alleyne and teammate Herbert "Moo Moo" Evans were in town for an assembly at Rosa Parks Elementary School, where they promoted the Trotters' C.H.E.E.R. program — character, healthy mind and body, effort, enthusiasm and responsibility.

So how did the 25-year-old become "Skyscraper"? When Alleyne was waived by the Philadelphia 76ers last August, he was contacted by the world-famous Globetrotters, who flew the Bronx native to Phoenix for a tryout. He made one of the Globetrotters' two traveling teams and was given the show name of "Skyscraper."

In this, his first season with the Trotters, Alleyne has played in more than 100 games. The Trotters are split into two teams, and Alleyne's team first went on a military tour overseas that saw them play at military bases in Korea, Japan and Guam.

"Also I went to Hawaii twice," he said. "It's a great experience. I've been enjoying myself."

What does he enjoy?

"No. 1, I enjoy putting smiles on people's faces," he said. "And with the state of the economy right now, it's great to see people come out and want to see our presence and want to get a laugh in. Technically, they don't have to come out."

Plus, Alleyne said he enjoyed the work the Trotters do with children, such as the program Tuesday at Rosa Parks.

"Most definitely," he said. "I'm a people person. Moo Moo is, as well. It's great to come out here and see the smiles on the kids' faces, and give them something to look up to. Not literally."

Well, both. A star at Rice High School in New York, Alleyne never developed into a star at UK. He had his moments, scoring a career-high 16 points in a win over Georgia State his junior year, for example. But he ended up averaging 2.0 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.91 blocked shots during his three seasons.

What does Alleyne remember from his UK days?

"I remember the fans, the 24,000 people who packed up Rupp Arena every single game, regardless of who we played," he said. "And the love they showed whenever I walked through the mall or they saw me on the street. I will always remember Lexington for that."

He transferred to Manhattan College for his senior year. But after sitting out the required season as a transfer, instead of playing for the Jaspers, he decided to put his name into the NBA Draft. Unselected, he signed a free-agent contract with the 76ers but was waived after the summer league season.

It was then that he hooked on with the Globetrotters. The Trotters claim that, at 7-foot-3, "Skyscraper" is the second-tallest player in U.S. professional basketball, behind only 7-6 Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets.

"The Harlem Globetrotters are ambassadors of goodwill," said Alleyne. "That's right up my alley because I like endorsing goodwill and promoting the right thing to do. Along with that comes smiles, the fans, the crowd, the adoration from not only children but adults, as well."

He'll get to do some of that Saturday on the same floor where he once played.

"This is my old college stomping grounds, and I'm going to have fun," he said. "I'm going to see some people I haven't seen in a long time. It's going to give me more motivation to put on a good show."

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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