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The joy and excitement of watching the Harlem Globetrotters play will be intensified for many young girls who check out the team when it comes to our area this week, as female trotter Mighty Mitchell will be joining in on the fun.

“I never in a million years thought I would ever be a Globetrotter. I thought they were so amazing and really skilled and had great personalities that could make anyone laugh, so when I was asked to join, it was so amazing,” Mitchell says. “It’s truly an honor to be part of them.”

The Harlem Globetrotters will be playing at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 2 at the Verizon Center; and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2 and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at the Patriot Center at George Mason University. Tickets are available at www.harlemglobetrotters.com and each respective box office.

Mitchell is just the 12th woman Globetrotter to play for the 87-year-old team and will be the first to appear in a DC-area contest in more than 20 years when the music of “Sweet Georgia Brown” plays at the Verizon Center on Saturday, March 2, and the Patriot Center on Saturday evening and Sunday, March 3.

Her collegiate basketball career is as impressive as anyone on the team. She was a three-time all-conference selection at Dillard and led the team in points, field goals and three-pointers as a senior. In high school, she garnered all-district honors four times at St. James High School in St. James, La.

Fans will be wowed by Mitchell’s sharp shooting, dribbling and sliding across the floor—and she is learning new tricks every day. In joining the Globetrotters, Mitchell hopes to inspire young girls to be strong, dedicated, and ambitious.

“My main goal is to reach out to them and let them know that no dream is too big and everything is possible as long as you believe in yourself and work hard,” she says. “I take pride in being a role model. When a kid comes up to me and tells me I inspire them, I go to practice and work even harder to continue to inspire.”

Meredith Kilmartin, a 12-year-old Oakton resident who plays for the Upward Basketball program in Herndon, is happy there’s finally a girl on the team and hopes to continue playing the game she loves when she is older, as well.

“I appreciate that they are welcoming the opposite gender to join them as they perform some mad skills,” Kilmartin said. “I’m not really into trick shots myself, but I love basketball because I love to be competitive.”

Sami Bassett is a sophomore at Oakton High School who has been playing basketball since kindergarten.

“I like that it keeps you moving because it’s really fast paced, plus I play with a lot of my friends so it’s really fun,” she said. “I’ve been to a lot of college basketball games and they are all really good so it’s fun to aspire to become like that.”

Heading up the Oakton program is Fred Priester, who just saw his Oakton Cougars finish the season with a stellar 22-5 record. He believes that girls’ basketball in the DNV has always been at the top of the heap.

“Certainly the growth of women’s basketball continues to be exceptional. This area is a must-go-to place for college recruiters due to the quality of the players and the depth of talent,” he said. “I have been coaching girls basketball since 1980 and the growth and the improvement in the quality of play has gone hand in hand. I think the most remarkable thing about the past five years has been in the talent of the players and the quality of play as a result of better coaching, better opportunities and better competition.”

The varsity squad at James Madison High School in Vienna won the district finals this season and head coach Kirsten Stone believes that one of the reasons for increased talent in our area is because a lot more female athletes are working on their individual game outside of the season.

“They are working mostly with personal trainers and in small groups with team members. This allows more time in practice to work on things like defense and teamwork,” Stone said.

The Fairfax Stars has been a feeding ground for the area high schools, with many of its top players excelling not only at the varsity level, but then playing strong in college.

“This area is just loaded with talent. There are a lot of opportunities for girls to play and a lot more teams for younger kids to match the interest that I think has always been there,” says Aggie McCormick-Dix, the director of the Fairfax Stars. “I think a lot of people who played in the area are now out coaching these kids and that helps the level of play.”

Mitchell is happy that so many girls are taking to the sport and is looking forward to meeting both girls and boys after the game. New to this year’s Globetrotters game will be that fans will get to decide rules that could affect the final outcome. This could be anything from playing with two basketballs at once, to getting double the points for each basket made. Fans can go online with their kids to www.harlemglobetrotters.com/vote to vote.

“The support that I get from the team and the fans is extraordinary,” Mitchell said. “The fans are going crazy and to see that welcome is incredible. I want them leaving with a memory they will never forget.”