hawkhoops.com | Perry Reese Jr 1952-2000
Perry Reese movie has new life thanks to James Black

By Roger Metzger
Times-Reporter sports writer

LOS ANGELES—The Perry Reese Jr. movie is moving closer to fruition.

Dover native and actor/producer James Black said development funding has been obtained to write a script and things are looking good for the project to be developed into a motion picture.

"The writing has begun," said Black in a recent telephone conversation from his home in Southern California. "I talked with the writers yesterday (last Saturday). They have an outline already and a grasp of what we want to do."

"It's pretty awesome," exclaimed Black. "It's moving right along."

Reese, who coached high school boys' basketball at Hiland from 1984 to 2000, lived an inspirational story, moving to a mostly white, Mennonite and Amish community to coach.

Reese, who was diagnosed with an inoperable cancerous brain tumor in June, died in November of 2000.

His story caught the eye of Gary Smith, a writer for Sports Illustrated, who wrote an extensive piece for the magazine back in 2001. That led to Walt Disney Pictures picking up the rights to his story, which was shelved but Black rescued.

He had to go through some hoops, since Walt Disney Pictures owned the copyright to the story. He found Disney had shelved the film, and after speaking to his lawyer, learned that since there was so much public knowledge on Reese, it was fine to pursue it.

Black along with writers Bobby Smith Jr. and Rob Thomas spent last weekend in Berlin interviewing those who were close to Reese.

"We interviewed a bunch of people who knew Perry from different parts if his life, players and people who were really, really close to him," said Black.

Among those were current Hiland girls basketball coach Dave Schlabach, close friend Shelly Miller, former player Jr. Raber, writer Dave Mast, broadcaster Mark Lonsinger and Doug Klar, owner of Dumont's Sporting Goods.

"I was mesmerized, and thought this was a story that definitely needed to be told on film," said Black in an earlier interview. "I knew about Coach Reese, but I really didn't know his story until I talked to Doug (another close personal friend of Reese)."

"He told me everything about Perry," recalled Black of his conversation with Klar when he visited his hometown back around Christmas in 2015. "They had a really strong bond and when he told me the story he was emotional about it. I knew this was something I had to do."

The website www.theperryreeseproject.com was instrumental in raising the needed funds to get the ball rolling in terms of script development.

"It's looking pretty good," said Black of getting the movie made. "I'd say its 100 percent. If things go well, it could be very soon."