The Dribbler: Former Globetrotter talks hard work, respect at area schools

L’ANSE – Whether it’s making the Harlem Globetrotters or making it anywhere else, you’re a lot more likely to make it with hard work and respect, Corey Rich told students at L’Anse and Baraga schools Thursday.

When Rich, better known to fans as Corey The Dribbler, set a goal of making the Globetrotters in 2009, he wrote the goal down on a piece of paper, practiced six hours a day, posted YouTube videos to get himself noticed and earned his tryout in one year.

“Then I went to the library, got a 500-page book on the Globetrotters and read it in two days,” he said. His knowledge of the team’s history and goals impressed the team, which was looking for more than quick hands with the ball.

The Globetrotters wanted “not just a good basketball player, but a good person,” he said.

Rich’s visit to the schools, where he spoke to middle and high school students, was sponsored by the Youth Advisory Committee of the Baraga Community Foundation. In the gym, he mixed his famous ball-handling tricks, including dribbling six balls as once, with some more straightforward advice.

Another choice Rich made a years before trying for the Globetrotters was also key to his pro basketball journey, he said. He was playing Division III college basketball, where pretty much everybody dreamed of playing pro ball, at any level, but very few would ever get the opportunity.

There was a guy on the team, he said, who didn’t start playing the game until high school and was clearly the worst player on the team.

“Everyone made fun of him,” Rich said. “About five years later, this guy John becomes a professional sports agent. There were guys on the team still trying to go pro, and did he call them? No. But I was his best friend, and he helped me play professionally in China.”

“You never know who you’re making fun of, what they may become,” he explained. “I learned very young, what goes around comes around.”

Being nice to classmates and peers is one part of respect, Rich said, and means not putting them down behind their backs as well as being decent to their faces.

Respecting teachers and adults is also important, he said, and a big part of that is keeping your eyes on the person speaking, to let them know you’re paying attention. It’s a habit that can pay off in adult life, he said.

“If you’re looking for a job you’re going to have to go through an interview process,” he said. “They will expect you to have the skill to look them in the eyes when they’re talking to you.”

L’Anse senior and varsity hoopster Trevor Uren was one of the last contestants eliminated in a game Rich ran called You’ve Been Tricked, when he beguiled even the wiliest athletes into dropping trick passes.

“It was entertaining, and nice to know someone with a bad record in high school could play pro sports,” Uren said.

“I think it was pretty cool,” added seventh-grader Alexis Ringuette. “The respect part is really good to talk about sometimes.”