Editor’s note: The Harlem Ambassadors will be visiting Stephenville for a game at 3 p.m. on Jan. 28 at Stephenville High School, as part of a stop on their 2006-2007 tour that is scheduled to cover more than 40 U.S. states and will also star in Canada and Asia. Tickets are on sale in advance at First Christian Church, Texas Bank, and Fraser, Wilson & Brian Law Office on the Square. All money raised will go toward home construction, including current construction dedicated to the memory of Emeritus Habitat Board Member, Dr. Carl Phillips. Featured today is Ketrick “Jazz” Copeland, a basketball magician for the Ambassadors.
Special E-T Report
In the world of jazz music, the best players make the most difficult performances look easy. On the basketball court, Harlem Ambassadors guard Ketrick “Jazz” Copeland also makes things look easy. Maybe that’s how he earned his nickname.
As you watch him dribble in traffic, crossover and fake a defender out of his shoes, it looks like a breeze. When Jazz pulls back from his defender, slides to his knees behind a teammate’s pick and proceeds to dribble the ball around and under his head, mere inches from the ground, it appears effortless. And when he juggles three basketballs during pre-game introductions and sends them soaring twenty feet in the air, only to let the final one casually rebound off his backside en route to a waiting teammate’s hands, it looks as easy as buttering your toast in the morning.
For Jazz, who begins his seventh season with the Ambassadors this fall, the secret to making things look easy on the court for the Ambassadors show is of a lot of hard work off the court. “We wake up early (5 or 6 a.m.), and make sure to get a good continental breakfast. I get everybody up and motivated, load the van, and make the road trip to the next show, which is usually a four to five hour drive,” Jazz said. “We get to the next town and check in to the hotel and hope for at least an hour of rest before we head to the gym to set up and warm up. After we do the game and autograph session, shower and eat, we usually get to bed around 1 a.m.”
While this type of schedule appears hectic, the fact that Jazz and his Harlem Ambassadors teammates do it more than 100 times a year makes it downright impressive. The Ambassadors present their shows as fund-raising events partnering with not-for-profit organizations throughout North America. The Ambassadors are also the largest provider of entertainment to the U.S. military worldwide, having performed at more than 120 bases.
Ambassadors General Manager Dale Moss knew that Jazz was Ambassador material from the get-go, when he showed up to tryout camp in 1999 fresh off a 30-hour Greyhound bus ride from Memphis, Tenn. “Jazz won his spot on the team the old fashioned way - he earned it,” Moss said.
Jazz’ “whatever it takes” attitude has shone throughout his time with the Ambassadors. His superior ball-handling skills earned him the nickname “Juggling Jazz.” He went the extra mile and enrolled in a juggling class to perfect his craft. The results have been obvious; Jazz’ juggling and ball-handling tricks have amazed crowds all over the world.
With the Ambassadors, Jazz has seen places most of us never even think of. Last season the touring team played games above the Arctic Circle in Alaska. Jazz’ favorite journeys include the islands of the South Pacific and Hawaii. An Ambassadors military tour to Camp Dobol, Bosnia, in 2000 even added a little danger to the experience when the tour bus accidentally stumbled into a mine field. “The bus driver was trying to take a short cut, or something,” Jazz said. “All of the sudden a bunch of lights started flashing and sirens went off. It was wild.”
Jazz took over duties as the Basketball Operations Assistant for the “Stars & Stripes Tour” in 2004. This added quite a lot of responsibility to Jazz’ role in the organization, and he has lived up to the challenge. Along with the responsibility of overseeing the team’s everyday operations, Jazz has learned a lot about leadership and the differences it holds from being “just a player.”
“I’ve had to learn to separate myself from being just one of the guys,” he said. “My job is to do what’s best for the team and the organization. I’ve got to try to make the grind of being on the road easier for everyone and deal with a lot of different personalities.”
Jazz is also there to make the game organization experience easy for the non-profit staff and volunteers that work with the Ambassadors at nearly every show. This means plenty of communication over the phone and in person between the team’s arrival at each city and the end of the post game meal.
The rewards for all of this hard work appear in full at game time, when Jazz and the Ambassadors can make basketball look easy and fun for the thousands of fans they entertain. That’s what gets the Ambassadors van moving every morning. “For me it’s all about playing basketball and putting smiles on kids’ faces,” Jazz said.
The ECHH Hammers
Paul Ganther - First Christian Church Pastor, Hammers ãCoachä
Rusty Jergins - Stephenville Mayor, Honorary Captain
Tom Konz - Habitat Board, Faith Lutheran Pastor
Bob Crevetto - Stephenville Jr. High School
Lisa Craig - EC Habitat Homeowner
Dr. Greg Hubbard - Orthodontics
Wesley Rose - Habitat Board
Cliff Pettit - FMC
Mary Pack - Stephenville Intermediate School
Matt Ellis - Rocky Point Baptist Music Director
Hank Carter - Stephenville High School Football Coach
Greg Hardcastle - Stephenville Jr. High Coach
Alan Ward - Rocky Point Baptist College Student Minister
Ben Cornish - Lawyerâs Abstract
Celso Campos - Embarq, Knights of Columbus
Gabe Mendoza - Hispanic Business Council President, Texas Bank
Ritchie Sutten - Chicken Express
Brice Crippen - Stephenville High School Basketball Coach
Kreg Kimple - Stephenville High School Football Coach
Debra Guidroz - KSTV Radio