By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
H-O-R-S-E is a simple game, one that’s been played by just about everyone who has ever touched a basketball. Other than an ego boost from winning, not much typically comes from it. You win or you lose and everybody moves on.
But for former Centenary star Travion Kirkendoll, a simple game of H-O-R-S-E has changed his life.
However, it took a while.
Three years ago, when Kirkendoll was in the midst of his outstanding career as a Gent, the Harlem Globetrotters were in town for a performance. Kirkendoll and one of the Globetrotters played a game of H-O-R-S-E while they were shooting baskets and struck up a friendship.
“He reached out to me and the next thing I knew, they (the Globetrotters) had me in for a tryout,” Kirkendoll said. “The rest is history.”
After an audition in November, Kirkendoll was signed to the team. Last month, he appeared in his first game as a member of the world-famous basketball team in a game in Pittsburgh.
The kid from Campti who never really knew much about the Globetrotters – other than their connection to the Scooby Doo cartoon (“I was a big Scooby Doo fan growing up”) — was now part of a team that is among the most famous on the planet.
“The fact that Scooby Doo featured some kind of basketball was what I remembered,” he said. “Everybody remembers Curly Neal (as a Gloebrotter), but I knew Curly Neal from that episode.”
Once Kirkendoll joined the team, it didn’t take him long to find out what it’s all about.
“I think what makes the Globetrotters special is that no two players are the same,” Kirkendoll said. “People think they are all funny guys. Everybody is so different in style but we are the ambassadors of goodwill. The love of basketball and the love of people is what makes it work and not just looking at the people as fans.”
When Kirkendoll left on Christmas Day to begin this edition of the Globetrotters tour in North America – they’ll be at Brookshire’s Arena in Bossier City on March 30 – it began the latest chapter in Kirkendoll’s basketball career.
After graduating from Lakeview High School, he became one of most decorated players in Gents’ history. Kirkendoll played for the Gents from 2014-18, was named to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference’s 30th Anniversary team and is the league’s all-time leading scorer with 1,919 career points.
“I learned so much from my coaches at Centenary,” he said. “I don’t think I would have developed as a player and a man if I had gone anywhere else.”
From there, he played internationally in Saudi Arabia for one season. He knew that wasn’t for him, and was about to sign to play in Mexico when that league shut down due to the pandemic. From there was some semi-pro basketball and a year coaching at Centenary. Adam Walsh, his former coach at Centenary, was hired at Shenandoah University in Virginia and brought Kirkendoll in to join that basketball staff.
When the Globetrotters came to Winchester, Va., Kirkendoll attended his first Globetrotters game. Three months later, he was on the team.
“The travel is tough,” he said. “I definitely don’t feel 25 (years old) right now. We are on tour basically year round. Everybody (else) leaves (to be home) on Christmas Day but one of the coaches told me he hasn’t been with his family on Christmas in 47 years. The sacrifices that the Globetrotters make is something people don’t realize.”
There is no shortage of local ties for Kirkendoll and the Globetrotters. Former Gent Herbert Lang became a longtime Globetrotter and one of the team coaches is Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Sweet Lou Dunbar, a Minden native who played against Centenary when he starred at the University of Houston.
“I think people underestimate how much the Globetrotters really love basketball and make it mean something for the younger generation and people all over the world,” Kirkendoll said. “Some nights you might not have it, but then you see those smiles from the fans and that makes it all better.”
PHOTO: submitted image.