Court TV

Athletes show basketball skills in bid to make new show's team

08 August 2003 Wilmington Star News by Allison Ballard

"These two guys are on the bubble," said the coach, of ReelSports Solutions. "This is a big shot for them."

ReelSports and the other coaches weren't looking for guys to play on just any basketball team. This was a casting call for the WB series One Tree Hill, which begins filming in Wilmington next week.

ReelSports, in charge of the three-day tryout, was watching players practice at First Baptist Activity Center on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the two guys in question missed the lay-up, and a few minutes later, they were cut from the list of potentials.

The series takes place in a fictional coastal Carolina town with a strong basketball tradition. The two lead characters are half-brothers who play on their high school team, the Ravens.

In addition to the Hollywood types who will be playing the lead characters, producers are looking for athletes who can make the show more realistic.

"We're looking for guys who have skills," said Robert Miller, managing director of ReelSports, a company responsible for casting and training the players for the series. "They need talent and the ability to play."

It didn't take long for the candidates with only acting experience to know these roles were not what they were looking for.

"This guy's got a headshot," the coach said to one applicant with a photo. "That's a bad sign."

But guys such as Barron Thelmon (a former UNC-Wilmington player), Kwame Heyward (who played at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh), and David Martino, (a pro who played in Finland, Portugal and France) were asked to come back Wednesday to show off their skills.

The guys behind ReelSports have worked on productions such as Any Given Sunday, The Replacements, and Summer Catch, which was filmed in Southport, honing a realistic sports look for the movies.

While a sports theme is nothing new for feature films, it is unusual in episodic television.

"It's kind of unique," Miller said. "But it goes to show the growing genre of sports. It's a great way to tell a story."

Producers will need about 56 players to film the basketball scenes in the 19 weeks of shooting. They need to find the right mix of players who can play on the opposing teams and about seven players to fill the roles of Ravens.

"They're the hero team," the coach said. "And they'll be asked to work a lot." Not only during the filming of basketball scenes, but also "at the burger joint, on the bus, at the parties."

"We need commitment, we'll be shooting through December," Miller said, adding that many days can run as long as 12 or 13 hours. "And good attitude and work ethic. The same things you look for on a team."

They need players who will be able to make a 15-foot jump shot when the cameras are rolling.

"We're paying you," ReelSports told the potentials. "You become a professional basketball player."

For that reason, players shouldn't be seeking NCAA eligibility. "Your college education is far more important that this."

On Wednesday, the 110 players were put through their paces with a series of drills - and coaches made cuts every 30 minutes.

"Today, we trim the fat," said Brendan Kirsch, who will serve as a ReelSports' coach for the series.

Thursday, players were separated into teams for scrimmages. Afterward, about 40 were selected for the show. Some of the players, such as Heyward and Thelmon, were picked as possible Ravens opponents.

"To me, it's another opportunity to play," Thelmon said. "I never did anything like this. It'll be fun, getting to see how the whole TV thing works. They tell you what they're looking for, instead of on the court, where it's just instinct."

Martino, who at 27 is a few years beyond the high-school look, was selected as a possible double for the lead actors to make the difficult shots.

"I'd like to be on camera," he said. "But this is OK."

Today, they'll be going back to Screen Gems, where they'll be fitting for wardrobe and will practice reading lines for the camera.

The players from this round were enough to get producers through the first weeks of filming, but they'll likely hold another casting call in a couple of weeks to fill the remaining spots.

"This is really the first phase, getting the core players who can be available to use over the course of shooting," ReelSports said.

This article was first published in Wilmington Star News (08 August 2003).
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