'Jayhawkers' Depicts Wilt Chamberlain's Lasting Effect On KU And Lawrence, KS

Mar 7, 2014

Top Photo: Current KU Forward Justin Wesley portrays Wilt Chamberlain in the independent film Jayhawkers. Bottom Photo: Legendery KU Center Wilt Chamberlain later went on to become the first NBA player to score 100 points in a game, setting a league record for the highest number of points scored in a single game, a record that still stands today.
Credit youtube.com

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.

Twice named All-American basketball player, Chamberlain averaged 30 points a game at KU and took the team to the NCAA finals
Credit Courtesy photo

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.

Director Kevin Willmott is bringing the movie Jayhawkers to Wichita's Murdock Theater on March 7-9.
Credit Courtesy photo

Willmott is bringing Jayhawkers to Wichita for a limited engagement.

Jayhawkers will be shown Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 7-9, at Murdock Theater, 536 N. Broadway.

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.