IRVING — When the Harlem Globetrotters play at the American Airlines Center in Dallas this weekend, they will do so with a female athlete who grew up in North Texas and attended Holy Family of Nazareth School in Irving.
"I was once sitting in the seats where you guys are sitting, so it is awesome!" Joyce Ekworomadu told the student body of about 130.
The Globetrotters like to call her "Sweet J."
"I was on the honor roll, I was spelling bee champion here, so I took pride in doing homework," Ekworomadu said. "I then went outside, played, and found my passion."
She attended school at Holy Family of Nazareth long before she became known as "Sweet J." She lived in Irving until the age of 13. That's when she moved to Coppell, where she graduated from high school.
Ekworomadu recalled a picture the school gave her that was taken when she was a student.
"I remember the day," she said. "It was field day. I was best all-around girl, athletic. I remember we went through all kinds of field events. I was always a tomboy, just trying to keep up with the boys, and so I'm still trying to keep up. Nothing has changed, as you can see."
Only this time, she is doing it as the 12th female member of the Harlem Globetrotters. She still plays on the Nigerian basketball team, and delivers a message of anti-bullying and inspiration.
The Globetrotters' glamorous image is inspirational to Holy Family student Mikayla Beecham. "One day somehow, I want to be one of them," she said. "It's really cool how you do the tricks and be on TV."
"It's really cool, because it makes you feel special," added classmate Mya Ulloa. "I guess it builds your confidence and wanting to complete your dreams."
"I want them to take away to never give up on your dreams — no matter what people tell you, no matter how much they tell you that you can't do something. Keep on doing it, and prove them wrong," Ekworomadu said.
And who knows? Perhaps another future Globetrotter was sitting in the student section on Monday, listening and taking notes.