Homecoming: Globetrotters' Merriweather excited to be coming to Freedom Hall

Joe Avento • Updated Mar 19, 2019 at 8:51 PM

By the definition of the team’s name, members of the Harlem Globetrotters are used to being on the road.

Throughout the years, the team has appeared in more than 120 countries with little chance of playing at home.

That will be different next week for A.J. Merriweather. He’ll have a home game when the Globetrotters play at Freedom Hall on Tuesday, March 26. Merriweather will be playing on the same floor where he performed for East Tennessee State’s 2017 Southern Conference championship team.

“I’m ready for it,” Merriweather said Tuesday morning during a media-tour stop at the Johnson City Press. “As soon as I saw it on my schedule, it was circled. Johnson City is my second home. It’s going to be exciting. I expect the fans to come out and have a lot of fun. It’ll be a great time.”

Merriweather, who was touring with fellow Globetrotter Orlando Melendez, is in his second year with the famous team and he says he’s enjoyed every minute of it.

“I love it,” said Merriweather, who these days goes by the nickname ‘Money.’ “To be in different cities, meeting different people and playing basketball — it’s really a dream come true.”

The Globetrotters weren’t in Merriweather’s plans before one fateful practice. As the team was preparing for the NCAA Tournament in Orlando, Florida, Merriweather threw down a dunk that was so athletic and ferocious, ETSU coach Steve Forbes waved off the last few minutes of practice.

A video of the dunk went viral and Merriweather became more well known. He was invited to the College Dunk Contest, where he stole the show, only to finish second when he failed to make one of his dunks in the finals.

“I think it was my one shining moment when that happened,” Merriweather said of the practice dunk. “The video went viral and my life kind of changed from there.”

The Bucs are still on Merriweather’s mind even though he never played with any of the current team members. He gets notifications on his phone telling him when the ETSU games start, what the halftime score is and when the game ends.

“Hopefully I’ll see them at the game Tuesday,” he said.

Melendez, the first Globetrotter from Puerto Rico, played at North Carolina, where he was on two Final Four teams. He likes the direction of this year’s Tar Heels, who earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m very excited about the way the season is going,” said Melendez, in his seventh year with the Globetrotters. “I think it’s been one of the most consistent teams I’ve seen in North Carolina in a long time. Even the championship teams haven’t looked this consistent.”

Looking deep into the brackets, a North Carolina-Duke championship game is a possibility, and Melendez said that’s probably no accident.

“I think the committee was thinking about the magnitude of that game,” he said. “And if it happens, it could be bigger than the Super Bowl.”

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Tickets for the Globetrotters’ game range in price from $28-$89 and are available at the Freedom Hall box office or online at the Freedom Hall link on www.johnsoncitytn.org.

Tickets for a “Magic Pass” to attend a pregame event on the court with the team are $23.

In addition, the team will stay after the game to sign autographs.

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