Earlier this year it was former Michigan State forward Delvon Roe who took part in a film, playing the role of a Vietnam veteran in the movie “Love and Honor”.
College basketball has another thespian in its circle apparently, as Kansas forward Justin Wesley has taken on the role of Wilt Chamberlain in a documentary entitled “Jayhawkers” according to Sean Keeler of Fox Sports Kansas City.
Filming began on August 15, with the documentary covering head coach Phog Allen’s recruitment of the Philadelphia legend, and Chamberlain’s impact on KU and the Lawrence community both on and off the court.
For Wesley the opportunity to be a central figure in the project is not only about acting but also learning about the history of the program that he’s a part of.
“I’m mainly doing it for the history of it,” explains Wesley, who appeared in 38 contests and averaged 10 minutes per game off the bench last season for the NCAA runners-up. “The movie has a lot of controversy and that’s the main reason why I’m doing it. It’s kind of fun, like, learning the backstory — to be a part of that is so exciting.
“The backstory of the movie is the different reasons that Phog wanted Wilt here, (while) the chancellor (Franklin Murphy) wanted Wilt here to change segregation in Lawrence. He felt like Wilt would change the whole outlook (of the city), and Phog wanted him to change basketball.”
Former Kansas center Scot Pollard is an associate producer and will also act in the film, playing the role of another Kansas great (B.H. Born).
But the movie hasn’t come without some controversy as Chamberlain’s sister Barbara O. Chamberlain-Lewis has attempted to have filming stopped, but filmmaker Kevin Willmott says that his lawyers have told him that he has rights to the film.
“Our entertainment lawyer told us we didn’t need the rights,” he said. “It’s an ensemble film. Wilt’s not the main character, so it’s no longer necessary to buy the rights.”
Willmott said former Kansas Chancellor Franklin Murphy and legendary former KU coach Phog Allen are the film’s main characters, and Wilt’s KU coach, Dick Harp, and jazz musician Nathan Davis are major characters as well. Willmott characterized the film as a story of the role Wilt, Murphy and Allen played in integrating Lawrence.
In her July 12 letter to Willmott, Chamberlain-Lewis wrote, “I think we both know that the main character and focus in this proposed movie will be Wilt.”
Whether or not the project gets completed remains to be seen as there’s still a need for funding in addition to the above legal issue, but taking on a role like this is a great learning experience for Wesley.
Photo credit: University of Kansas