By all rights, Nick Young wasn’t supposed to be a college basketball star. He flunked out of two high schools. His oldest brother died in a drive-by shooting. Now, the Southern California player is set to be chosen in this week’s NBA draft and earn millions of dollars.
His struggle is portrayed in “Second Chance Season.” The documentary debuted last week at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where a third screening is scheduled for Sunday.
“Every now and then, a kind of special story picks me,” said Daniel H. Forer, the director and co-producer. “It was an absolutely remarkable journey.”
Forer discovered Young, one of the city’s most heralded prep stars, in early 2003 while working on a cable pilot about basketball. Intrigued by his background, Forer followed Young’s multiple appeals with the Los Angeles Unified School District to get back into high school. Days before his senior year was to begin, Young was admitted to Cleveland High in suburban Reseda.
“I’m not the smartest person, but sit down and work with me,” Young says on camera. “I know what to do.”
The film follows Young’s attempts to score at least 800 on the SAT exam to earn a basketball scholarship to USC, a private school with hefty tuition.
On each of three tries, he gets special tutoring and extra time on the test. The camera zooms in as he repeatedly opens the score results.
“It started off pretty cool, but some days it got kind of overwhelming,” Young said in an interview about the film. “It was hard.”
In between Young’s academic lows, he leads Cleveland High against rival Taft High and Jordan Farmar, a close friend whom Young saw get more acclaim and be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers.
At home, the Young family’s emotions careen between joy at Nick’s basketball prowess and anger about the killing. There is also worry about another son whose emotional problems landed him in a group home and concern about Nick’s test scores.
Forer’s cameras capture the family’s life in their modest three-bedroom apartment and the mounting pressure on Nick to succeed.
“It’s just right on,” Charles Sr. said, referring to the film. “It helped my son and my family get through some hard times. We’ve gotten used to the idea that my son is dead and isn’t coming back. We have to push the kids we have now in their careers.”
Young is projected as a top-20 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, with some experts considering him as the second-best shooting guard behind Corey Brewer of national champion Florida. First-round picks receive guaranteed contracts.
“Maybe he’ll get a high draft choice and make a lot of money, then I can retire,” said Charles Sr., who has supported his family by driving moving vans and hauling other people’s stuff for 29 years.
“I’m getting nervous,” Nick said. “Everybody keeps saying it’s a big draft and you don’t know where you’re going to end up. I’m so used to being an L.A. city guy and I could be out of there.”
Young has yet to live away from home, having stayed with his family during his three seasons at USC.
“Nick is kind of a momma’s boy,” his father said.
Young’s mother, Mae, was a stay-at-home mom to the couple’s five sons Charles Jr., Andre, Terrell, John and Nick, the baby.
“I’m always out in the field, my wife would always be there for them,” Charles Sr. said. “That way I wouldn’t have to worry about them, they wouldn’t get in gangs.”
In 1991, when Nick was 5, Charles Jr. was killed in a park shooting witnessed by his pregnant fiancee, who recalls the horrific scene in the movie.
Basketball fans familiar with Young’s outgoing persona see another side of him in the film. He cries and laments never getting the chance to say goodbye. He says that before every game he talks to the brother he idolized.
The convicted triggerman, identified in the movie as Marcus, did seven years in jail. Forer found Marcus’ father, and through him, got to Marcus, who appears in the movie talking about the murder he committed at 15. After prison, Marcus left gang life and now works as a recruiter for law firms.
The movie delves into Marcus’ flashbacks of the shooting and his regret, along with Charles Sr.’s desire for vengeance and Mae’s contempt for her son’s killer. Charles Sr. considers meeting Marcus, but it doesn’t happen.
“He killed my son,” Charles Sr. said in an interview. “There’s nothing that he can say to me that’s going to change my mind about him.”
Forer still thinks the two men will end up meeting.
“Charles has some demons that he’s still dealing with,” the director said. “Marcus has a message that he is uniquely qualified to share. He wants to be an example.”
Forer hopes to land a distribution deal for the 94-minute movie with a major studio or cable TV network. Charles Sr. hopes the film sends the message that tragedy shouldn’t keep people down forever.
“You can move on and accomplish your own goals,” he said. “This has been a dream of Nick’s since he was a kid. Everybody should have a dream. If you ain’t got a dream, you ain’t living.”
– Associated Press
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