FAIRBORN — Veteran Harlem Globetrotters forward Wun “The Shot” Versher has seen a lot of basketball.
He’s been to Vatican City with the team to meet Pope John Paul II and has been all over the world making people smile and enjoy the sport he so loves. But the 6-foot-5 Globetrotter lists two trips to South Africa, and meeting then South African President Nelson Mandela, as the highlights of his career thus far.
Mandela was in the third year of his presidency, and the Globetrotters became the first professional basketball team to play in a free democratic South African nation in 1996.
“Meeting Nelson Mandela was the highlight of my career,” Versher said Monday by phone. “I’ve been on the Globetrotters for 18 years, and he is definitely the icing on the cake for me. I got to shake his hand. And talking to him for those very few minutes was awesome. You know, even without first speaking to him, you just felt that he was a man of peace. You know that he’s a leader. He’s very humble. He’s definitely a role model, a great leader who left a mark in the minds of millions.”
Preparing for the team’s 15th straight New Year’s Eve basketball exhibition at Wright State’s Ervin J. Nutter Center might sound like small potatoes after visits with Mandela and a pontiff, but Versher said he’s excited about it.
Versher says the 2014 “Fans Rule” World Tour has taken the Globetrotters’ game to a new level. Fans can vote online at harlemglobetrotters.com to determine which of three revolutionary rules will be utilized in the game itself.
The fans can choose from:
* HOT HAND JERSEY: Both teams have a “Hot Hand Jersey” they can pass among themselves to the player who has the hot scoring hand. If that person scores while wearing the jersey, he earns double points when he does.
* MAKE OR MISS: This could be fun on the pick-up courts. Teams start with two players on each team. When a team scores, a player enters the game. But if you miss, the player who missed has to leave the court.
* TRICK SHOT CHALLENGE: Each team has three challenge flags. Each coach can challenge the other team to make a trick shot. If the team makes the shot, they’d earn five points. Miss it? The other team gets the five points.
The players learn which rule will be in place just seconds before tip-off.
“I love the new rules. It’s a great way to get our audience even more involved in our games,” Versher said. “We’re known for our audience participation, be it bringing people out to dance, or to play basketball … or maybe getting some water poured on them. This is another great way to get the fans involved.”
Versher, who is one of the Globetrotters’ top sharpshooters of the 4-point shot (a 35-foot shot that can be taken during the last three minutes of any quarter), said his favorite of the three rules is the Make or Miss rule.
“I like the advantage or disadvantage the Make or Miss rule creates for the team,” he said. “And it seems to get the crowd fired up and rooting for the underdog.
“I love the interaction with people. It’s the favorite part of my being a Globetrotter. I love to see people having a good time and laughing. If I can do that, it’s perfect. There’s so many things in the world that make us cry or get upset or feel sad. But if I can do something that will make people laugh and be happy … man, you just can’t beat that!”
The Globetrotters will play at 2 p.m. Dec. 31 at the Nutter Center. Tickets start at $20 and are available at harlemglobetrotters.com, ticketmaster.com, the Wright State box office or by phone at (800) 745-3000.