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Life’s great for this Harlem Globetrotter

Spinning a ball on his nose or head? No problem for “Scooter” Christensen!

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — They’ve yet to lose a game at Santa Ana Star Center through their first six appearances, so what are the chances the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters will lose there on March 7?

About one in a Brazilian, probably.

Through their 94-year existence, the team rarely loses, but, then again, the rules are often “bent” a little — traveling, double-dribbling, stoppages to do a routine.

But who really cares? This is entertainment with a capital E, and for Shane “Scooter” Christensen, in his 15th year with the ‘Trotters, there’s no other place he’d like to be.

“Pushing the Limits World Tour” aptly explains the team’s 94th year of existence — Scooter’s been to 85 countries while at this “job” — and he enjoys the opportunity to make a favorable impression on youngsters he visits in schools as he gets to keep playing basketball and make a living wage. (His answer to a youngster at MLK Jr. Elementary who asked him how much money he makes: “I make enough money to buy myself some McDonald’s.”)

Christensen, who wasn’t sure if he’ll be on the team’s roster when it visits the Star Center next month, first started playing the game at the age of 5.

He played soccer, too, but when he started growing faster than most of the other kids, he started concentrating solely on basketball in eighth grade. After winning a state championship and team MVP honors at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nev., he went on to play at the University of Montana (1998-2002), leading the Grizzlies to the NCAA tournament in 2002. He is one of only three players in school history to lead the team in assists three straight seasons, and he is still second on the school’s all-time assist list.

Christensen has appeared on TV shows “The Bachelorette,” and GAC’s “Top 20 Countdown.” Not only is Christensen one of the Globetrotters’ premier ball-handlers, he can sing, too, and once won a karaoke contest in Montana.

“I come from a singing family; we sang a lot in church,” he said, and he even sings on the bus now and then when the Globetrotters are traveling from city to city.

Christensen graduated from UM in 2002 with a sociology degree — it’s important for him to have that for a post-Globettrotters career — and later played professionally with the Magic City Snowbears, a Minot, N.D., International Basketball Association team, and later the Las Vegas Rattlers, an American Basketball Association team that lasted one season.

Being that this is the team’s seventh trip to play at the Star Center, here are seven questions for Scooter:

You own more than 1,000 movies on DVD; which one would you grab, if you could watch only one for the rest of your life? That is the hardest question I have ever had in my life … but if I had to pick one, I would have to say “The Pistol,” because it‘s a movie about ‘Pistol Pete’ Maravich and it was a movie that I just gravitated to as a little kid. It’s probably the reason I’m a Globetrotter today. I was a kid … and I’m 12 or 13 at the time of the movie. Watching this kid do all that — he was playing ‘Pistol Pete’ of course, in the movie — but the way he was handling the ball, I was like, ‘Man, if I could do that, it’s going to help my competitive game.’ I had no intentions of being a Globetrotter later on.”

How long have you been “Scooter”? Since I was 3 years old. I played soccer when I was little. My name is Shane and there was a guy on my soccer team named Shawn. And they would always call me Shawn and him Shane … (My dad) said, “Call him Scooter,” and everybody’s like, why? “Because when he was a baby, he would crawl with one leg and scoot the other leg.”

Best part of being a Globetrotter? Just making the impact on kids and the power we have. The things that we talk about, they’ve probably heard a million times from their parents or teachers or coaches or whatever. But coming from a Globetrotter and seeing what we do and how we can change some lives, it’s probably the best feeling in the world.

How many hours do you practice a week? Before every game, we probably practice 2-3 hours before every game and we play well over 230 games.

When’s the last time you learned a trick? Oh, my goodness. It was probably two days ago. Our new rookie guy, named ‘Lucky,’ he’s got so many tricks up his sleeve — he’s by far the best ball-handler I’ve ever seen. He’s from China (other Trotter newcomers are from Poland and Ukraine) and what’s crazy about him is 10 years ago, me and a couple teammates went to China and he was there. He was young and said, “Because of you, Scooter, and Handles, that made me do what I do today.”

Have you ever been to New Mexico before? Yes, I have, but this the first time I’ve actually gone out in the community. … I’ve been here plenty of times (and played in the Star Center). Somebody asked me earlier, what is it about you guys to keep making a trip here? I said, “Man, I think it’s the fans – they love basketball out here.”

How much do you like going to the schools, hospitals, etc? I gravitate to it; I feel like I can really change a kid or at least get him to think twice about being positive and having a positive mindset. … And we have the “Smile Patrol” program, where we go to the hospitals and visit the kids that can’t maybe get to a game, try to give them a smile or two because we know smiling and laughter’s the best medicine.

(The March 7 game at the Star Center starts at 4 p.m. Tickets are available through ticketmaster.)

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