Sweat poured from the faces of Mustang FCA players as they practiced their dribbling and free throws before a fund-raising basketball game May 11 with the famed Harlem Wizards.
“Do you know CPR?” quipped one Mustang player heading to the bench for a rest. Another leaned against the wall, breathing heavily, and said, “I’m already winded.” Sweat-stained towels draped shoulders and chair backs.
The fast-paced, entertaining game at the Madisonville High School gymnasium between the two teams moved from a halftime score of Wizards 43 and Mustangs 42 to an ending score of Wizards 95 and Mustangs 88. Nearly 1,000 adults and children watched and cheered from the bleachers.
But all the sweat and heavy breathing had a higher purpose than just fun and exercise for those playing on both teams. They were raising money to send local youth to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) camp this summer at Texas A&M University in College Station.
“I was an FCA officer in high school, and as a youth pastor, I believe in the mission of the FCA,” said Joey Frederick, whose company, Frederick Intermodal, brought the Wizards to Madisonville. “And as a company, our mission is to be good stewards of what God has given us and provide clean family fun.”
Harlem Wizards player Arnold “A-Train” Bernard said the team also was invited to Madisonville because he and Frederick are long-time friends and played basketball together during their student days at San Jacinto College in Houston.
“This is a special game for me, because Joey and I go back a long way,” said Bernard, laughing. “We have a nice past, but I’m going to do my best to make him look bad. The most important thing about tonight is we’re going to have fun out there.”
The Wizards team consisted of Eric “Broadway” Jones, David “DP” Paul, Arnold “A-Train” Bernard, Rashaan “Rocket” Barner, James “Roadrunner” Tyndal and Kendric “Special K” Price.
Since 1962, the Harlem Wizards have entertained fans around the world with their skills as basketball players and master showmen, from show-stopping trick hoops to alley-oops. In addition, the team has raised more than $1 million for charities and organizations like FCA.
The FCA is an interdenominational, Christian organization that was founded in 1954 and has touched the lives of million of athletes in its history. It operates on countless school campuses and teaches the four core values of integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence.
Sandy Isbell, FCA representative for Madison, Grimes and Leon counties, said she appreciated the work done by the local churches, FCA Huddle Coaches and Frederick Intermodal in bringing the team to Madisonville.
Before the game, Mustang FCA players gathered under the hoops and took turns shooting baskets. The Mustang teams were divided into teachers and principals, first quarter; youth pastors, second quarter; coaches, third quarter; and high school alumni, fourth quarter.
“We’re doing this for the kids,” said Catherine Franke, a Madisonville coach for high school volleyball and junior high basketball and track. “I think it’s a good way to show them how to compete in a fun and classy way. And it’s wonderful to show the kids that good Christian athletes can compete.”
Feet pounded the court as players from both teams raced from one hoop to the other, hoping to score points. The Harlem Wizards demonstrated trick shots and hung from hoop rims, all the while engaging the crowd in their antics.
During intermission, Ryan Tannehill, the incoming senior quarterback who led Texas A&M University to wins over Teas, Oklahoma and Nebraska last season, spoke about his faith in God. Tannehill said God is blessing his life right now, but that could quickly change.
“I love playing sports, but it doesn’t last,” Tannehill said. “One day, both football and life will end for me. That’s why God is my rock. Everyone may abandon you, but he won’t. In fact, he sent his son to die on the cross for our sins, and that’s a true blessing.”
Tannehill said his favorite Bible verse is Colossians 3:23, which talks about working for God’s approval and not for man’s approval. Tannehill said he thinks about that verse when he feels unhappy with something in his life, and it motivates him to go out and do his best for God.
During the second half of the game, Tony Matthews, a seventh-grade math teacher at Madisonville Junior High School, sat on the bench and watched while his teammates struggled to keep up with the Wizards. Matthews played during the first half of the game.
“This has been tons of fun,” he said. “I’m glad the Wizards came out. I tried to keep up with them, but I have asthma and was huffing and puffing. Still, I had a lot of fun and they are super-nice guys.”
Mustang FCA players were:
Teachers and principals – Marc Hodges, Lori Hagaman, Pam Ghormley, Glenn Guderian, C.K. Smith, Tony Matthews and Shae Murphy.
Youth pastors – Josh Schwarz, Jonathan Pugsley, Jarred Ricks, Joey Frederick, Brandon Bales and Chad Huff.
Coaches – Sherah McPherson, Brian Thurmond, Daniel Mitchell, Brock Wardlaw, Justin Grimes, Catherine Franke, Jo Dorman, Jarrod Byrd and Jack Trosper.
Madisonville High School alumni – Brandon Cook, Brian McCloud, Pat Cooper, Kole Savage, David Delasandra, Wes Hammett and John Blakely.
Referees – Spencer Cook and Wade Phillips.