Jayhawkers, a new independent film, brings the legend of famed 7-foot 1 basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain back to life. The movie, co-written and directed by University of Kansas Associate Professor of Film Kevin Willmott, is centered on the three years Chamberlain spent in Lawrence and the permanent effect that period of time had on both the city and the game of basketball.
The movie reveals the changes the city of Lawrence went through in 1955 when Coach Forrest “Phog” Allen and Chancellor Franklin Murphy brought Chamberlain to KU. Chamberlain was one of the first basketball superstars when he was recruited to KU from Philadelphia, where he played on a non-segregated high school team.
The civil rights movement was just beginning in Lawrence and vestiges of segregation where extremely apparent when Wilt came to town and Chamberlain wasn’t used to being treated “differently.”
“He changed KU and Lawrence and really he changed the game of basketball”, Willmott said.
The movie premiered in Lawrence in February to huge crowds and rave reviews. Director Kevin Willmott said Lawrence was kind of blown away by it.
"Even the older people that were here when Wilt was here, they tell the stories, but so many people didn’t know any of this history at all," he said.
Willmott is bringing Jayhawkers to Wichita for a limited engagement.
Willmott will attend the Friday showing and participate in a Q&A session after the movie. Friday’s showing begins at 7 p.m. On Saturday the film will show at 6:30 p.m. only. Sunday, the film will show at 4 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the Friday premiere with Willmott are $15. Saturday and Sunday tickets are $10.
This story originally aired on Morning Edition on March 7, 2014.