New Heights sets out to win AAU title
Before playing in high school or college, boys who dream of playing big-time NCAA hoops or emulating Kobe, LeBron or MJ in the NBA Finals fill parks and basketball courts. Most of these youngsters think they have what it takes to play AAU basketball.
With New York City as the backdrop, the documentary “Little Ballers,” directed by Crystal McCrary and executive produced by NBA star Amar'e Stoudemire and rapper Lupe Fiasco, tells the story of four 11-year-old boys and their coach as they take to the road and set off on their journey to win an AAU National Championship.
Named “New Heights,” this team of young ballers knows that the AAU is where a lot of their idols have been molded to become the stars they are today.
The boys come from a variety of backgrounds. Cole Anthony is the son of the film's director and former NBA player Greg Anthony. Tyriek Chambers lives in the harsh reality of seeing his mother struggle financially as they live in the rough neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn.
“Growing up in the hood … in poverty, sometimes ball is the only way out,” said Stoudemire, who was an AAU standout back in his day.
“Little Ballers” went deeper than the dream of making an NBA roster. Basketball was not the main point of this film. It served as the driving force for the value of family and of getting an education, but more than anything else, basketball has given all these kids hope.
Through watching their ups and downs on the road to the AAU championship, one thing is clear: that these 11-year-old boys know they can lean on each other. At times, they seemed way older.
“My teammates are like brothers,” New Heights guard Kevin Green said. “When we lose, we still find a way to pick each other up and be happy.”
Losing isn’t something New Heights coach Billy Council wanted the boys to experience, and that’s what comes across in his coaching style throughout the film.
After one of the team's wins, Coach Billy wasn’t satisfied. Even though his team won by eight, they had once led by 27. At the end of his postgame speech, Coach Billy yelled at all of them to get out of his face.
It seems as if his hardcore coaching style works well with the kids, though.
“Coach Billy is a tough coach, and he yells a lot of the times, but I’ve seen him coach players who will be good enough for the NBA,” guard Judah McIntyre said.
One of Coach Billy’s former players is Kyle Anderson, starting guard for UCLA.
Coach Billy is the anchor behind this tight-knit family and shares the emotions of happiness, anger and tears the boys shed, too. He also coaches them in the game of life as well as the game on the court.
Asked how difficult it is to see his players eventually move on, Coach Billy said: “What I always try to tell the boys is that when you progress in life, one thing you can’t take back is change and sometimes change is the best. I was coaching them since they were about in fourth grade and now they’re in eighth, so it’s about time for them to hear a new voice.
“From a basketball perspective, I’m not their coach anymore, but as they continue to develop in life, I’m still Coach Uncle Billy.”
To learn more about “Little Ballers” and to find out when there will be a screening of the documentary near you, follow their Twitter handle @LittleBallers or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org