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 on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., the 90-minute presentation from the ESPN Films group 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 the so-called “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 you do . . . ”
“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 fairytale,” 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’t-miss prospects all missed on the court, yet tried to make it in life.”