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Harlem Wizard promotes Saturday basketball game at Massena High School

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MASSENA - David Paul says he had a dream and that became a reality when he joined the Harlem Wizards.

“I was just dreaming that’s I’d find a job I’d be happy with and not work a day of my life. I found it,” said the 6-foot, 6-inch, 10-year veteran of the traveling basketball team.

Mr. Paul, or “DP” as he’s known, is in Massena this week for a game against the “Raider All-Stars at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Massena High School gymnasium. Also on his itinerary was a visit to Massena schools on Thursday to promote the game.

He said he was attending the College of Staten Island when he received a call asking him to work out for the team. And the rest is history for the 33 year old.

Now he travels around the world playing the game and oftentimes sharing messages with students. He said he has talked about topics like anti-bullying, respect and not using drugs.

“This one is pretty much geared toward the game. I’m promoting the game to get the kids all excited and get them all pumped up and hopefully most of them come to the game,” DP said before entertaining Nightengale Elementary students in their gymnasium.

His presentation included the offer of free things for some students.

“I like to give away free stuff,” he said, telling the crowd that the first three students to mention they’re from Nightengale Elementary while they’re in line Saturday night would receive Harlem Wizards basketballs.

If they weren’t the first three, that was all right, too, DP said, because they’d have more giveaways during the halftime show. Those would include more basketballs as well as Harlem Wizards T-shirts and posters that would be given to individuals selected from the crowd. They would also have an opportunity to have their picture taken with the team, he said.

“Everyone will get an opportunity to win something free, but you have to be at the game,” he said.

For Thursday’s presentation, DP had two free tickets to give out - but only if physical education teacher Jeffrey Slack was able to sink a free throw. Mr. Slack did and the tickets will put into a hat for a drawing that will be held today.

During his visit, he built a sense of excitement about Saturday’s game.

“I just came from Madison Elementary. The kids are excited. Make sure you get your tickets early. You gotta go see DP so he can do his dance like this. We’re gonna have a great time. The whole community is coming out,” he said.

For those who weren’t able to attend Saturday’s game, they got a taste of DP’s skills when he invited student Mike Kuhn, who he said he had met earlier in the school’s hallway, up to the front of the crowd.

“One of the kids came up to me and saw my T-shirt. He asked, ‘Hey, yo man, you one of the Harlem Wizard dudes?’” he recalled.

DP said Mr. Kuhn also told him, “I’m a better basketball player than you.”

“Then he went running down the hall like a little chicken,” he joked.

Like DP, Mr. Kuhn had an opportunity to show his skills Thursday afternoon in front of the entire school body.

“Guess what, he’s in here right now. We found him. His name is Mike,” DP said, inviting Mr. Kuhn up to take part in the three basketball maneuvering challenges, two of which Mr. Kuhn was successful with.

“Are you trying to make me look bad?” DP asked him.

As his afternoon wound down, the Harlem Wizard had another offer for the Nightengale students - team autographs for everyone who attended the game.

Saturday’s game is being sponsored by the The Massena Central Athletic Department and Hall of Fame.

The Wizards will be playing a team that includes Tim Currier, Jeffrey Slack, Anthony Diagostino, Mike Matejcik, Patrick Henrie, Justin Shope, Brandon Downs, Mike Matejcik, Robert Jordan, Duane Richards, Amy Wilmshurst, Tim Long Jr., Pat Farrand, Paige Arcet, Bill Lint, Chad Simpson, Eric Pomainville, Tom Miller, Matt Brabaw, Susan Macaulay, Thomas Oldenburg and others.

Pre-paid tickets are $10 for students and adults, while tickets at the door are $12. They can be purchased at the high school athletic office, Trinity Catholic School office, all three elementary school offices and the J.W. Leary Junior High School office.

DP said traveling to locations like Massena is nothing new for the Harlem Wizards.

“We do a lot of traveling. We have three full-time teams that travel all over the world,” he said.

He said he has visited China four times as part of his travels, as well as every state in the United States except for Alaska.

They did about 360 games last year, and he participated in about 170 of them, he said.

The team consists of about 24 members, including 18 who are full-time and some part-timers, DP said.

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