Monday, October 22, 2012

Long Shot: Nobody Rebounds Like Kevin Laue

Kevin Laue set out to become the Jim Abbott of Division One NCAA basketball.  It will be a tall order.  Unable to “go to his left” Laue is constantly disregarded by college scouts in Franklin Martin’s Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story (trailer here), a sports documentary for viewers who do not ordinarily follow sports, opening this Friday in New York.

A former coach at Tennessee State and a letterman at Hofstra, Martin had the misfortune of guest coaching a team matched-up against Laue.  He was not ready for what followed, but at least he found the subject of his next film.  With a left arm shortened due to complications at birth, Laue was an unlikely high school starter.  Yet, his talent and athleticism compensated on the court.

Eventually, the story of Laue’s tenacity hits the national press.  He and his family even have a private meeting with President George W. Bush, who characteristically puts everyone at ease.  Unfortunately, most college scouts and coaches are evidently not in the “feel good” business.  Nor will Laue’s season pan out the way he hoped, taking his road to a Division I school on a dramatic detour.

Like the typical Olympic athlete, Laue is also no stranger to personal tragedy.  His father succumbed to cancer while Laue was in grade school, leaving a void that looms large throughout the film.  However, the commitment of Laue’s coaches on the prep level and before really stands out in the film.  At a time when many coaching staffs are making headlines for the wrong reasons, Laue’s experiences will come as a refreshing change of pace.

For good reason, Martin focuses almost exclusively on Laue the basketball player and still grieving son.  That is obviously where the dramatic meat and potatoes of the story are, but it leaves the impression of a rather single-minded (almost one-dimensional) young man.  One would hope for his sake he also has outside interests.

Without giving away spoilery details, it is important to note Long Shot has a New York connection.  Hardly shy when it comes to pulling the heart strings, it is a good sports doc precisely because the shots do not always fall Laue’s way.  That is the nature of sport.  Martin captures it rather well, thanks to his up-close-and-personal access to Laue and his family.  Recommended more for audiences of inspirational fare rather than hardcore college hoops fanatics, Long Shot opens this Friday (10/26) in New York at the Quad Cinema.