Front and center with a Globetrotters’ forward

The Harlem Globetrotters’ Zeus McClurkin and the Camden Catholic High School basketball team stand behind senior Kate Spadaro. McClurkin visted the Cherry Hill school Feb. 22, a week after Kate, who has Down syndrome, commanded attention on the court during a Senior Night game against Lenape.
Zeus McClurkin stands with Kate Spadaro after giving an inspirational talk and demonstrating ball tricks for the Camden Catholic students.
Photos by James A. McBride

CHERRY HILL — The Harlem Globetrotters’ Zeus McClurkin might have been the special guest in Camden Catholic High School’s auditorium last week, with his tricks and dunks, but Kate Spadaro was the real highlight, with true heart and spirit.

Indeed, Kate, a senior with Down syndrome, has had nights and days to remember in recent weeks.

On Feb. 15, the girls’ basketball team manager was in the squad’s starting lineup against Lenape on Senior Night, and scored the game’s first basket — and with it scored widespread positive local media attention.

A week later, she and the girls’ basketball team were treated to a visit by McClurkin, who applauded the team for their compassion and respect, elements of the Globetrotters’ national bullying prevention program. The Globetrotters gave the Camden Catholic girls basketball players complimentary tickets to their games at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Sunday, March 4.

During his time in front of the girls, on the basketball court, McClurkin, a Globetrotters forward, taught them some of his team’s noted ball skills.

Laughs were a part of his presentation, as well. After saying that he’s “from Cherry Hill, too,” McClurkin, after cheers from his audience, added, “Cherry Hill, Ohio.”

Like Kate, the 6-foot-8-inch McClurkin knows something about determination. He was cut from every basketball team he tried out for from seventh grade through 10th grade, but he kept pushing and finally made his high school team his junior and senior seasons, according to the Globetrotters’ website.

Also on hand that day was Kate’s proud father, Gerry.

“The game, and today, have been special moments for her. We’ve been on cloud nine,” he said.

Gerry praised Camden Catholic, calling his daughter’s four years there “phenomenal,” in terms of how the school has nurtured her.

“She’s been able to flourish. There’s something for everyone at this school.” Kate graduated from Our Lady of Hope School in Blackwood before enrolling at Camden Catholic.

In addition to being the team manager for the basketball team the past four years, “she’s in the National Honor Society, manages the lacrosse team, and is captain of the football cheerleading team,” Gerry Spadaro said. “She amazes me every single day.”

The girls’ basketball coach, Chrisy Palladino, noted the passion Kate “brings with her everyday, whatever she’s doing. She’s an integral part of this community.”

“She’ll go very far” after Camden Catholic, she said.

As for the thoughts on these past few weeks, from the star herself?

“Awesome and incredible,” Kate beamed.