The Thanksgiving holiday was a very busy one for Harlem Globetrotter rookie and Austin native Patrick “Flip” Atkins.

Sporting the team’s trademark red, white, and blue ball, the athletic 21-year-old played the part of “Ambassador of Goodwill,” entertained and helped serve homeless patrons at the Cornerstone Community Outreach, 4628 N. Clifton, with teammate Bull Bullard on Thanksgiving Eve.

On Thanksgiving Day, Atkins participated in the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“It feels great being able to give back to the community,” said Atkins, “as well as representing the Globetrotters organization. To be in the position to put smiles on people’s faces is really humbling.”

Atkins has been involved in athletics virtually his entire life as he began playing sports in grade school.

“I always had the desire to play sports,” he said. “I was undecided on the sport I wanted to concentrate on. I first got interested in gymnastics, and then I played baseball for a while, but eventually I settled on basketball.”

It was a risky decision. Atkins, who was formerly a member of the Jesse White Tumblers, stands only 5-foot-9 and there was concern about his size when he began playing at North Lawndale College Prep.

“There were a lot of coaches that questioned my size,” Atkins said. “But I just worked hard to convince them that I would put the work into my game so it wouldn’t be as much of a detriment.”

The hard work paid off.

At Trinity International University, Atkins scored over 1,000 points, led the nation in steals twice and in his senior year led his team in steals, assists and rebounds. The latter is quite the feat for a player playing point guard.

“He is amazingly athletic and that is the secret to his ability to excel at rebounding and shot-blocking which are normally associated with players over a foot taller,” said Eric Nemeth, senior director of Live Even Publicity for the Harlem Globetrotters. “He is a unique specimen.”

Atkins is the oldest of five children to parents Patrick Atkins Sr. and Trixie Smith, both of whom played college basketball as well.

“My parents were very encouraging when I was beginning to focus on basketball, and they offered advice on ways I can improve my game. They have been very supportive.”

As a member of the Globetrotters, Atkins travels all over the world entertaining audiences with his athletic feats. He says that the intense travel schedule often keeps him away from home for weeks at a time, which does cause him to miss his family. But within the organization ,he has built a second family that has allowed him to feel as though he is still very much in the presence of relatives.

“The way the players have really taken me in has allowed me to make the transition that much smoother,” Atkins said. “Players like Bull Bullard and Herb Lang have been like father figures. They are the reason why, even when I am away from home, I still feel like I’m with family.”

The Harlem Globetrotters will bring their 86th Annual 2012 World Tour to the city that founded the organization in 1926, Chicago, for two games at Allstate Arena on Friday, Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Tickets are currently available at www.harlemglobetrotters.com, www.ticketmaster.com, the Allstate Arena box office, or by phone at 800-745-3000.

Harlem Globetrotters then and now

85 years ago in Chicago, a 24-year-old businessman named Abe Saperstein formed a small basketball team called the Savoy Big Five. He was trying to promote a nightclub called the Savoy Ballroom, but in just a few years the team had played over 1000 games around the country and was rechristened the Harlem Globetrotters.

In 1941, just before the start of World War II, the Globetrotters signed Reece "Goose" Tatum, an all-time great who developed amazing comedy moves that changed the direction of the team. By the end of the war the Globetrotters had played 30,000 games, losing only 2190. They were featured on the cover of Life Magazine, a notable achievement at a time as America was deeply segregated by race.

The Globetrotters toured worldwide, becoming the first team to play basketball in Europe. In 1950, Globetrotter Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton became the first African-American player drafted in the NBA. In 1959, when the United States and the Soviet Union were enemies in The Cold War, the Globetrotters went on a sold out tour of Russia.

Over the next 50 years, people around the world-from politicians to monarchs-turned out for each of the Globetrotters' games. Their lineup over the years has included such basketball greats as Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson.

Courtesy Harlem Globetrotters

www.harlemglobetrotters.com