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El Gato Melendez
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No.   -    team
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Personal information
Born                           January 1, 2013 (2013-01-01) (age 7)
                                    Birthplace
Nationality                 nationality
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Career information
High school             highschool                                  
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Selected by the [[ ]]
Pro career               -present (7 years)
Career history
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years                  team
Career highlights and awards
  • awards

Orlando Melendez (born February 14, 1979) , or "El Gato", is the first Puerto Rican-born basketball player ever to play for the Harlem Globetrotters.

Early years

Melendez was born in the City of Ponce, Puerto Rico. When he was 14 years old, he would go home after school and with his basketball under his arm make take a 2-mile jog every day to the nearest basketball court and practice the sport with the local kids. Jogging was in his blood since father used to jog marathons, and his grandfather is a track and field expert.

Whenever he arrived at the court, he would be accompanied by an entourage of cats, thus his nickname "El Gato" (The cat).

Melendez tried out for his Juana Diaz high school basketball team and was accepted. Through an exchange student program, he was able to play at McDowell High School in Marion, North Carolina, where he finished his senior year.

College

In 1997, Melendez was awarded a scholarship to the University of North Carolina. There, he began his college basketball career by playing for the North Carolina Tar Heels, where he appeared in the Final Fours in 1998 and 2000. From 1998 to 2007, Melendez played for UNC and professionally in Europe and Puerto Rico. He played for the following teams:

North Carolina (NCAA) 1998-1999, 2000–2001, 2002; Leones de Ponce 1999-2000; *Polluelos de Aibonito (Puerto Rico-BSN) 2001-2002; Toritos de Cayey (Puerto Rico-BSN), in May was traded to Los Atleticos de San German (Puerto Rico-BSN): 16 games; Atleticos de San German (Baloncesto Superior Nacional (BSN), starting five) 2003-2004, 2006; Grises Orientales de Humacao (SuperLeague 25, starting five) 2004; Indios de Mayagüez (BSN): 20 games 2004-2005; Guayanilla (SuperLeague 25, starting five) 2005; Gallitos de Isabela (BSN): 31 games 2006; Luxbasket camp in Wiltz 2006-2007: AS Soleuvre (LUX-DBBL): 11 games; in Dec.'06 try-out at Eiffel Towers Den Bosch (NED-Eredivisie), in Feb.'07 moved to Team Merry Monk Ballina (IRL-SuperLeague): 8 games, 2007; *Maratonistas de Coamo (BSN, starting five), in May moved to Cangrejeros de Santurce (BSN): 13 games, 2008; Cangrejeros de Santurce (BSN): Liga Americas: 6 games.

Harlem Globetrotters

In 2007, Sam Worthen, the former Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Jazz guard, coached professionally in Puerto Rico. He also coached the Washington Generals the perennial Globetrotters punching bag. Worthen, impressed with Melendez's ability to play and entertain suggested Melendez try out for the Globetrotters after the two had bumped into each other outside the San Juan apartment building in which they both lived.

In 2008, Melendez became the first Puerto Rican-born basketball player ever to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. He was not however, the first Hispanic of Puerto Rican descent to play for the Globetrotters. That distinction belongs to Orlando Antigua, whose mother is Puerto Rican and who in 1995 made Globetrotters history by becoming the first Hispanic and non-black to play for the team.

Melendez whose position is that of "power forward", injured his knee during training camp. He had surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus. Melendez was well enough for the start of the December 26 domestic season.

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