Over the years, the UC Bearcats have had a number of vertically talented players. There was James White who could fly from the foul line and actually participated as a high jumper on the UC track team.
Before that, there was Melvin Levett. Levett once jumped over a golf cart at a Midnight Madness function and dunked. His ability to soar gained him such nicknames as "The Helicopter" and "The Grim Leaper".
former Bearcat that shares something with Levett is 6-foot-7 forward Darnell
Wilks. Wilks didn't have the
collegiate numbers that White or Levett had, but he's had a pretty good run as
a Harlem Globetrotter.
Wilks joins Levett, Biggie McClain, Jermaine Tate, Jesse Jemison and John Howard as Bearcats that have become Globetrotters. Of that group, he's the only one still lining up to "Sweet Georgia Brown".
The former Bearcat forward now resides in Tennessee when he's not "trotting the globe" which he is currently doing. He left for China last month.
The Globetrotters' US tour begins on Christmas Day and they're scheduled to be at US Bank Arena on Dec. 29. Two games are on tap that day at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Before leaving for China, Wilks wasn't sure if he would be on the crew of Globetrotters coming to Cincinnati. Last year, as "Spider", he returned to his collegiate stomping grounds in the Queen City.
Now, unlike the "Meadowlark" Lemon days, Globetrotters are known by one nickname alone. While Bearcat fans know that he's Darnell Wilks, to the rest of the country, he's "Spider".
"They gave that to me because of my ability to climb to the basket," Wilks said.
Wilks used that ability to sky for the Bearcats and was actually named co-MVP of the 2010-11 Mick Cronin team that went 26-9.
After losing their second game in the NCAA tournament to Connecticut that March, Wilks went on to be a semifinalist in the Denny's Slam Dunk Championship in 2011.
His performance started the ball rolling toward wearing the red, white and blue uniform.
"I think it was after the dunk contest," Wilks said. "Then it was me using my connections to get a tryout for the team."
Coming from a military family, Wilks was accustomed to traveling the US, so the job was a perfect fit. As a kid, he was able to witness the Globetrotters in person.
"I've been to a lot of places," Wilks said. "Three different high schools. I moved a lot."
Now he moves from arena to arena as part of one of the world's most famous traveling shows.
been throughout Canada and I've been in Mexico," Wilks said. "China will be the
first actual overseas tour I'll be doing."
While Wilks was selected for his jumping and dunking, just as he could at UC, he does have a perimeter shot. Actually, in Globetrotter games, it extends beyond the arc.
For those that didn't know, the Globetrotters employ a four-point basket that is 12 feet away from the traditional NBA three-point line.
"I shot a couple 'fours' last year," Wilks said. "I made four in one game. I shoot some four-point baskets and some threes."
He also emphasizes that the Globetrotters are made up of talented players that can still "ball". An evening on the court is not necessarily all confetti, water buckets and the "weave".
"We're always playing real basketball," Wilks said. "We just incorporate a little showmanship into the game."
Like many blessed with talent, Wilks has the uncoachable gift of good DNA. His mother ran track and played volleyball and his father played basketball.
Athletics came easy to Wilks and the roundball was introduced to him almost immediately.
"I always get the story of my Dad bringing a basketball into the delivery room when I was born," Wilks.
still keeps tabs on his former teammates as he's not that far removed from the
current upperclassmen. He has fond memories of playing in the NCAA tournament
with the 'Cats and having a good showing against Georgetown his senior year.
"They've got depth so I think they'll be just as good as they were last year," Wilks said of Cronin's crew. "They've got Sean (Kilpatrick) and Cashmere (Wright) and JaQuon (Parker) and Justin 'Jumpin' Jack' Jackson. That's what I call him. He's still going to be blocking shots and playing hard."
His current Globetrotter tour runs between now and April. In between, he hopes to catch UC making a spring run.
"For the past couple of years they've been under the radar a bit," Wilks said. "That's the way we've always been. I think they kind of like that."