LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Department of Health, Sport, and Exercise Sciences will host the premiere of a documentary film about the life of a prominent KU alumnus and basketball legend.
“Fast Break: The Legendary John McLendon” is presented by the Broken Fence Film Ranch, Rockhaven Films and Level Club productions. It was produced by Scott Unruh and directed by award-winning director Kevin Willmott, KU professor of film & media studies. The premiere also serves as the fundraising campaign launch for the John McLendon Leadership Award and Lecture Series.
The premiere will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, in 3140 Wescoe Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Inspired by the award-winning biography “Breaking Through: John B. McLendon, Basketball Legend and Civil Rights Pioneer,” by Milton Katz, the film reviews the life of this remarkable African-American Kansas Citian, the first black student at KU to earn his degree in physical education and study under and be mentored by the inventor of basketball, James Naismith.
McLendon graduated in 1937 from KU, where he integrated the Robinson Center swimming pool as well as the KU Senior Prom. He then earned a master’s degree in physical education from the University of Iowa.
His successful coaching career included service at North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University), Tennessee State University and Kentucky State University. McLendon was also the first black head coach of the professional basketball team the Cleveland Pipers and later coached the Denver Rockets, now the Denver Nuggets. He served as assistant coach of the 1968 and 1972 U.S. Olympic basketball teams. Following his coaching career, McLendon worked for Converse Shoes as a worldwide ambassador for basketball.
More information about John McLendon and the film can be found here.
The Department of Health, Sport, & Exercise Sciences is housed in the School of Education. The KU School of Education is a nationally ranked School, preparing educators and health, sport, exercise professionals as leaders.