Last year at this time, Joyce Ekworomadu was finishing up her first year coaching softball at Grand Prairie High School.
The former Coppell and Texas State basketball standout was settling into life after pro hoops when a conversation with a friend led to one more basketball tryout.
Ekworomadu goes by “Sweet J” now after completing her first season as a shooting guard for the Harlem Globetrotters.
The Trotters are another addition on Ekworomadu’s résumé, which includes a season with the WNBA’s San Anotonio Silver Stars as well as professional teams in Poland and Italy.
She and teammate Cheese Chisholm held the first of three daily basketball camps at 24-Hour Fitness in Fort Worth on Sunday. The camps run through Tuesday.
How did you get started with the Trotters? One of my friends on the men’s team at Texas State was playing for the Globetrotters and I just finished playing overseas and was teaching. We talked a lot about it and I asked him to tell them about me and he did. I got a phone call and then a tryout. They liked me because you not only have to be a good basketball player, but you have to have a fun, energetic personality to do this. I got a tryout and an offer and here I am.
There haven’t been that many women Globetrotters. Has the significance of that hit home and what does it take? I’m one of 12 women that have been Globetrotters and after being around for 88 years, I’m very privileged. The first one, Lynette Woodard, was in 1985 and she paved the way for the other 11 of us. To do this, I think you just have to be energetic, and if you come to our shows you’re going to see that energy. It’s our job to put smiles on peoples’ faces, and we have to be out here smiling because every show is different. There’s not one show that I haven’t died laughing, because it’s live entertainment. It’s basketball, though. I get to have a lot of fun with it and I don’t have to be so serious.
What’s the best part of your game that fits the show? My specialty is the 4-point shot, which is way farther than the NBA 3-point shot. It’s all about practice. Anything you’re good at, you have to practice a lot. I’m not sure how many NBA players can be as consistent at the 4-pointer as we are, but it’s all in the amount of time you put into practice. When I got here, I didn’t know how to do a lot of the things, especially with ballhandling. But you put in the work every day, and I got pretty good at it.
Did you have a favorite city on this last tour? We just did a European Tour and we were in Jerusalem for Easter weekend. We were in Italy and Rome when the pope was bestowing sainthood on Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, so that was pretty cool. I always love going outside our country and seeing the world.
Do you still live in the Dallas area? Absolutely. I’m hoping to close on a condo this week. It feels great to be back home first and foremost. The tour is long and we get to see a lot of great places and people, but there’s nothing like being home. The chance to be here and give back a little, it’s always an awesome feeling.
You’re also doing duty for the Nigerian national team. How long do you think you’ll continue to play? Both of my parents are from there, so I’m very honored to play on that team and get that opportunity. I’m going into my second year here with the Trotters, so I’ll do this as long as my legs will let me. Not only do we play, but we do things like this as far as community outreach programs and just giving back. I can talk for years and years to come, but hopefully my legs will do their thing also.
Is there a plan for life after basketball? I’ve got a BA in Business Administration, but right now my focus is this, and I can’t really look too far ahead. But anything I do, it’s going to be related to basketball and related to kids. Last year, I was a teacher and loved it. [I] coached some softball and have never played that in my life, but I was serious about it and enjoyed making a difference.