Paul “Tiny” Sturgess was in the Twin Cities on Monday making a series of appearances in advance of the Harlem Globetrotters playing at Target Center this weekend.
“I should be at the Masters,” he said with a laugh.
He’s not too far off. The first thing people notice immediately about Sturgess is his height. At 7-foot-8, he was recognized by Guinness World Records in 2011 as the tallest professional basketball player in the world. Unofficially, he is also the tallest golfer who could beat the vast majority of us out on the links.
Sturgess said he is a 4-handicap on the golf course. He grew up in England, where golf reigns supreme, and with custom clubs — three inches longer than standard — he routinely crushes drives more than 300 yards. But he makes his living playing basketball with the Globetrotters, who are at Target Center at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday.
Sturgess was always among the taller kids in his class, checking in at 5-11 by age 15. In the span of a year, however, he grew another foot. He added a couple inches in several subsequent years, eventually landing at his current height.
A mutual connection led him to the basketball team at Mountain State (West Va.) University, where he remembers playing against Trevor Mbakwe — then with Miami Dade College. Mbakwe transferred, of course, and this year played center for the Gophers; Sturgess is a full foot taller than him. After helping Mountain State to an NAIA national runner-up finish, Sturgess landed with the Globetrotters.
“They called me up and invited me to a training camp,” he said. “They saw that I could handle the ball and do the tricks. Now here I am two years later.”
It’s not the Masters — nor is it the World Cup. Soccer was another early love for Sturgess, until he got “too big for it, I guess.” But even after getting a late start in basketball, he loves it all the same.
“I wouldn’t be playing it every day of my life if I didn’t love it,” said Sturgess, who has worked to build up his Globetrotter skills and antics. “The veterans work with us a lot to teach us the basics. Everyone has their own routine.”