Jun 18, 2003 | UPDATED 01:45 PM EDT
Hornets basketball star slam dunk with children

The Mississauga News
Jun 18, 2003

He isn't a Raptor -- and isn't likely to be one anytime soon -- but the kids loved Jamaal Magliore anyway.

The New Orleans Hornets star was at Sherwood Heights School yesterday speaking about his National Basketball Association career. But it was his repertoire of thunderous slam dunks that really impressed the students, eliciting a long chorus of oohs and ahhs.

"I like him better than Vince Carter because he can do more tricks," said 5-year-old Michael Fernandes, observing the action from his front row seat. Afterwards, he was the first to pose with his hero, looking up adoringly at him.

"I don't think I will be a Raptor fan anymore," he added.

If Nav Bhatia gets his wish, young Michael won't be torn too much longer.

"I'm working on him (to come to Toronto). We can really use him," said the Raptor superfan, who arranged Magliore's visit to his daughter's private school, located in the Glen Erin Dr./Dundas St. area.

"No way I'm being disloyal associating with Jamaal," added Bhatia, the owner of Hyundai Mississauga who's become a familiar figure on Raptor broadcasts for his exuberant cheering.

Before wowing his audience with his basketball skills, Magliore, who starred at Toronto's Eastern Commerce High School before being recruited by the University of Kentucky, urged the kids to stay in school and get a good education.

"It doesn't matter how good you are as a player," said the 7-foot centre, "there isn't a university here or in the U.S. that will accept you if you're not a good student."

Now 25, and with three years of NBA experience behind him, Magliore works hard at his job.

"I'm often at practice a couple hours before I'm required," he said. "I work out with a coach and then hit the weight room. I definitely will be an all-star in the NBA one day."

Which was sweet gospel music to his young fans. Now, if only he would wear the familiar purple, silver, white and red one day soon.

Staff photo by Chris Horobin

Toronto native and NBA star Jamaal Magliore mesmerizes children at Sherwood Heights School yesterday. The 7-footer used the floor to score some points with a "stay in school and get a good education" message.