Former Harlem Globe Trotter Derek Polk made his 7-foot-tall debut Saturday at the Sandusky YMCA.
Polk towered over eager children who lined the walls waiting for their chance to sprint onto the court and take hold of the ball that made Polk's name famous.
The crowd was much more than YMCA sports director Dwayne Henson anticipated, but he said he was thrilled with the opportunity to provide the area children with the chance to learn from someone who promotes not only basketball, but respect, education and team work.
"We're just trying to do the right with these kids," he said. "We're always looking for way to build their confidence so maybe they'll go out for the team next year. Having him here helps get them motivated to do their best."
Polk, who grew up in Cleveland, travels all over the nation and started the Derek Polk Educational Foundation 11 years ago to share his techniques and skill in basketball as well as his knowledge of life and success.
"I wanted to do something to help kids learn not only about basketball, but life," he said. "Kids need role models and I promote academic achievement for all athletes."
Going through several drills, participating children were full of smiles and beamed at encouragement from the retired player who never once raised his voice with negativity, even when a student missed a shot.
"In life, if you want respect, you've got to earn respect," he said. "Basketball is one of the most unselfish games out there. You need to work as a team to succeed."
Jaylen Gordon, Dominic Kirkwood and Trae Caffey avidly participated while Polk coached them through drills, and kept going afterward. The boys continued to shoot hoops and practice what Polk showed them.
"I hope he comes back again," said Gordon. "That way he can teach us even more."
"This was awesome," said Alonzo Collins, while tossing a ball to Gordon. "It was fun and he taught us stuff we didn't know."
Henson said he hopes to invite Polk back and get even more kids involved.
"When I started my foundation, my goal was to reach 10,000 kids," said Polk. " I'm getting there with the help of sponsors like Dick's Sporting Goods. They provide the equipment so I can get out there and provide these kids with the tools."