‘Morn­ing­side 5’ is must-see

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - ERIC SONDHEIMER ON HIGH SCHOOLS eric.sondheimer@la­times.com Twit­ter: @lat­sond­heimer

From be­gin­ning to end, “Morn­ing­side 5,” a 25-year jour­ney into the lives of the starters from the 1992-93 In­gle­wood Morn­ing­side High bas­ket­ball team, of­fers sur­prise, heart­break, drama, dis­ap­point­ment, anger, in­spi­ra­tion and hope.

Set to be shown on ESPN’s “30 for 30” on Tues­day at 6:30 p.m., the 90-minute pre­sen­ta­tion is nar­rated and di­rected by Mike Tollin, who put to­gether the orig­i­nal doc­u­men­tary in 1993 en­ti­tled “Hard­wood Dreams.”

The team’s star player was Stais Bose­man, one of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s best two-way ath­letes of the 1990s. Morn­ing­side was com­ing off a state ti­tle in 1992.

For some­one who has cov­ered high school sports in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia for more than 40 years, it’s al­ways in­trigu­ing to learn what hap­pened to the so­called “can’t-miss” prospects once they left the prep ranks.

Tollin tells the story of the ups and downs, tri­als and tribu­la­tions of Bose­man, Dwight Curry, Corey Saf­fold, Don­minic El­li­son and Sean Har­ris over a 25-year pe­riod.

Some of the lines that come out are quite mem­o­rable.

“If you look for trou­ble, you can find it.”

“Bas­ket­ball doesn’t help youdo...”

“I think I was the best de­fender ever to play bas­ket­ball.”

“That was go­ing to be the ticket to our dreams.”

“He needed some­one to kick him in the butt but also to love him.”

“Life takes you through a big roller coaster. How you han­dle it makes you the per­son you are.”

“I was raised right. I just had to get to an age where I was coura­geous enough to fol­low my heart.”

“I took my swing at the NBA. It was hit and miss, and I missed.”

“You have to have a backup plan to a backup plan.”

“They made me feel I’m worth some­thing again.”

For Tollin, a Philadel­phia na­tive who has be­come a suc­cess­ful TV/film pro­ducer and direc­tor in Los An­ge­les, the project be­came deeply per­sonal. His love for sports and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of fa­ther­hood com­pelled him to stay in touch with the Morn­ing­side 5. His mes­sage is there are many dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tions for suc­cess in life.

“Suc­cess should not be mea­sured solely, if at all, if you made the NBA,” Tollin said. “There are dreams that can evolve into some­thing. This isn’t a cau­tion­ary tale. It’s a suc­cess story.”

None of the five made it to the NBA. None was even drafted. Bose­man came clos­est af­ter star­ring at USC. He got cut from a sum­mer league team. He’s now a bas­ket­ball coach and youth coun­selor in Min­nesota.

“Life isn’t a fairy tale,” Bose­man said. “And ev­ery­thing doesn’t go as planned. Life has its ups and downs, and some­times I laugh be­cause peo­ple judge my life [by] whether I made it to the NBA or not. It was a mi­nor part. I’m happy with my life and what I have be­come.”

Their jour­neys were hardly smooth. They’ve had to over­come lots of ob­sta­cles on and off the court. Tollin makes the case that there’s noth­ing wrong with en­cour­ag­ing kids to dream big.

“How do we nur­ture dreams with­out push­ing too hard or with­out cre­at­ing un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions?” he asked. “We all have to iden­tify where that line sits. The mes­sage is, don’t drum that out of kids. The last thing you want to do is kill a kid’s dreams.

“These kids all had gifts. It wasn’t just an il­lu­sion or fab­ri­ca­tion. To me, there’s noth­ing more pow­er­ful than hopes and dreams, and it’s our job to fuel them.”

The chal­lenge is, what hap­pens when the dream falls short? Can you pick your­self off the ground and get back up?

In the end, “Morn­ing­side 5” lives up to ESPN’s pro­mo­tion of the film:

“Against the back­drop of bas­ket­ball, it gives an in­ti­mate look at how five can’tmiss prospects all missed on the court, yet tried to make it in life.”

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