Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Action' speaks louder than words Basketball his ticket out

Former Globetrotter helps gang members get off Winnipeg streets

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IN a perfect world, there would be no street gangs. Young people wouldn't be wandering the neighbourhoods at all hours, stealing cars, taking drugs or becoming pushers and pimps.In a perfect world, young people would be involved in sports, music, drama, and all the finer things in life that come with loving parents, homes and quality education.

In a perfect world, Glover Jackson would be out of a job as a Child and Family Services support worker, trying to help at-risk youth find a better path through life.

But it isn't a perfect world, and he's busier than ever.

Standing 6-foot-10 and 265 pounds, he's an imposing figure. And if that doesn't command respect, he has an ace up his sleeve. From 1994-98, Glover was a Harlem Globetrotter, entertaining fans all over the world alongside the likes of Geese Ausby, Sweet Lou Dunbar, Charles (Tex) Harrison and Curly Neal.

"Geese was my mentor," says Jackson. "He actually gave me my nickname 'Action', and yes, I can definitely still do the reems (routines and tricks with the basketball that the Globetrotters are famous for)."

After the Globetrotters -- "all fame, no fortune" -- and a two-year stint in Asia, Jackson moved to Winnipeg in 2000 to play pro ball with the Winnipeg Cyclone of the International Basketball Association for one season. He found himself immersed in the city so quickly that he's been here ever since.

That same year, he also worked at a clothing shop for big and tall people and volunteered at an Athletes In Action summer camp, as well as serving as a celebrity waiter at the Teddy Bear Picnic.

The soft-spoken giant knows the battlefield. "I have seen what the gangs do. I have seen death," he said.

Born in Chicago, he's the youngest of seven children.

"My father died when I was three. All my family members joined a gang, but I chose basketball. If it wasn't for basketball, I would have been a victim of the street. Basketball was my ticket away from all the crime that surrounded me."

He credits his mom, Clora Jackson, and his southern Baptist upbringing as two of the strongest influences in his life.

"After the eighth grade, my mom moved me and my brother (Tyree) from Chicago to Mississippi," he said. "You can teach a kid talent, but you can't teach him heart. And the one thing I had brought with me was heart. I had never played basketball in my life, but I played in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades and I had a scholarship (at Louisiana State) within three years of actually picking up a basketball."

Although he tried out at a camp for the NBA's Phoenix Suns, he was never drafted by an NBA club.

But playing in the world's best league was never really his dream and he ended up with the Globetrotters -- a world-famous, travelling team that has wowed millions with their ball-handling skills and antics on the court. But the kids he works with aren't always impressed.

"It helps, but sometimes I have to put in a tape of actual games, or TV shows (Nickelodeon) that I appeared on."

Most of Jackson's basketball-related work with kids happens on the downtown YMCA court, but he also puts in time with kids at Crescentwood Community Centre.

"I know a lot of the gang members there (YMCA). They look to me kind of like a big brother and I can actually talk to them. I have a way about me, a kind of tough-love way that they understand. They might think I'm a little bit crazy because I'm so hard-core, but I'm only begging them to follow me; like I was the Pied Piper, and I can show them the right path."

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2008 C3

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