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Director Kevin Willmott, pictured above.
McLendon mapping out strategy at TSU
Fast Break: The Legend of John McLendon is the story of John McLendon’s struggle for equality in 1940s and 50s America, where one coach refused to accept that teams at traditionally black colleges were unable to achieve national prominence. An early pioneer of game preparation, conditioning, the fast break, the full court press, and a two – in – the – corner offense that became the seed for Dean Smith’s famous four – in – the – corner, McLendon’s teams played the first collegiate integrated game in Washington D.C. and the South. He was the first coach to win three consecutive national titles in the NAIA tournament in his hometown Kansas City, the first black coach of an integrated professional team, the first black coach at a predominately white college, the first black coach to compete in international competition, the first black coach on the U.S. Olympic basketball staff and the first African-American to serve on the U.S. Olympic committee.
John McLendon passed away at the age of 84 in 1999. Although his death was overlooked by much of the nation’s media, wrote Ron Chimelis in the Springfield (MA) Republican, ‘It took from us perhaps the last true link to basketball’s origins, but beyond that, a large piece of its soul.”
According to the film’s producer, Scott Unruh, he hopes that this project enlightens people, especially University of Kansas and Kansas City’s basketball fans, as to the importance of John McLendon’s accomplishments. Unruh is producing this film with the desire that his alma mater embraces this forgotten coach’s legacy and takes pride in his many successes — not only on the court, but in American society. John McLendon not only changed the way the game of basketball was played, but also, who could play it. He was much more than just a highly successful basketball coach. John McLendon was one of those individuals whose remarkable courage, unswerving determination, and moral strength in the pursuit of human rights and social justice brought democracy in America s step closer to reality.
The film is scheduled to be released in 2016 and will be the third documentary that The Broken Film Ranch and Rockhaven Films have produced. The film hopes to be released at the University of Kansas mid-summer.
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