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Harlem Globetrotter ace still enjoying role after 20 years

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You've been working the same job for two decades, you're married with five kids, it's three o'clock in the morning, and you're on a bus that's rolling pell-mell through the Pennsylvania countryside. But it could just as easily be the outskirts of Shelby, Montana or Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

What's more, you'll be doing this tomorrow night and the night after that and the night. . .well, you get the idea. When you're occasionally booked into a big city for a weekend, there is the luxury of a first-class hotel. Otherwise sleep is something you catch between bounces on a bus seat that adjusts backwards, but never quite far enough.

''I've been playing basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters for 20 years and I hope to play with them for another 20 years,'' grins 40-year-old Fred (Curly) Neal, whose shaved head is so highly polished that it is recognized worldwide. ''If you like what you're doing, which with the 'Trotters is making crowds of people happy, then the hardships of traveling are seldom a problem.

''What's a lot more difficult is adjusting to the individual personalities of the people who are constantly around you - like, you really live close for nine months of the year,'' Curly continued. ''Even though the first thing the 'Trotters look for when they're screening for replacements are the best athletes available, rather than the best entertainers, if a guy can't see us as family he isn't going to make it.''

Apparently if the Globies weren't so tall, they'd be natural candidates for the cramped quarters of submarine duty.

Neal, a 6-foot, 175-pound guard, joined the Harlem Globetrotters in 1963 right out of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N. C.


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