KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Just as the Jayhawks of today are starting to hit their stride, FOXSportsKansas City.com was granted an exclusive first look at a movie about the greatest Jayhawk of all — Wilt Chamberlain.
"Jayhawkers" is an independent biopic about Chamberlain’s recruitment to Lawrence, and how his presence affected race relations in the 1950s, throughout the state of Kansas and beyond. It stars current KU forward Justin Wesley as Wilt.
The film, co-written and directed by KU film and media studies professor Kevin Willmott, will make its Midwest premiere Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Lied Center for the Performing Arts on the KU campus.
"Jayhawkers" is the screen debut for Wesley, a 6-foot-9 senior power forward who has appeared in 65 games for the Jayhawks, averaging 6.2 minutes and 0.8 points. He’s shown in the trailer wearing Wilt’s trademark haircut and cap while flashing some of the "Big Dipper’s" moves on the floor.
As any moviegoer will tell you, it’s hard to tell much from a trailer, but Wesley sure does look the part and seems to make a fine account for himself as a newbie actor. In one scene, he appears to be accosted by a white restaurateur or patron, and in another he says, convincingly, "I’m not Jackie Robinson."
The movie also stars Kansas alum Kip Niven ("Return to Lonesome Dove," "Magnum Force") as legendary Jayhawks coach Phog Allen, Jay Karnes ("The Shield," "Burn Notice") as chancellor Franklin Murphy and Trai Byers ("All My Children") as jazz musician Nathan Davis.
Former KU standout Scot Pollard has a role in the film, as ex-Jayhawk player B.H. Born, who helped woo Chamberlain to KU. Pollard is also one of the picture’s producers.
"Jayhawkers" was shot at Allen Fieldhouse and around Lawrence and Topeka late in the summer of 2012. The movie’s climax involves the triple-overtime 1957 NCAA title game between the Jayhawks and North Carolina, a game the Tar Heels won, 54-53.
Additional screenings are slated for the Lied Center on Feb. 15 (11 a.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m.) and Feb. 16 (1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m.). Tickets can be purchased at the Lied Center box office.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.