By Jason Dorsey
Read Part 1 here: The story of the making of the “We are Family” documentary (Part 1)
In August of 2013, I started taking video footage of the Arsenal Tech High School basketball team. I’m not trained in videography, but I was passionate about getting as much footage as possible and my job as a pastor was flexible, allowing me to be present at most of the games and many of the practices. More importantly, my son Julian was on the JV basketball team, and he was able to capture footage that I couldn’t get.
One of the first things Julian filmed was Coach Jason Delaney’s pre-season speech. He emphasized the conditioning that would start in the fall, the importance of the players character, the expectation that the players would volunteer in community service projects, the goal of building of a basketball “program” at Tech rather than just building a good team, and this being the “Final Act”, the senior’s last chance to win it all.
Julian filmed the team serving as volunteers at the Monumental Marathon. On the bus ried there he took footage of one of the players, Justin Parker “JP”, singing to a Drake song. The team had lots of fun with that.
Julian also interviewed Mikey and took other footage of the team having fun with the gals from Tech’s girl’s basketball team.
This is just a snapshot of all the behind-the-scenes footage we shot. It would probably be a surprise to a lot of people just how much community service the Tech Titans championship basketball team did!
One of the first things I did was to interview the coaches: Besides the head Coach Jason Delaney there was Coach Eric Klinefelt who was known as “Coach K”; Coach Jamal Smith, who worked for the government and also with the guards, Coach Raymond Batts who coached the JV team, Coach Dabney who led the freshman team and also helped out at the varsity level. And Coach Tom Lyles, Trey’s dad. I remember asking Coach Lyles if he had to choose between the team winning state or being a team-of-character which he would choose. After a pause, he answered that he would choose being a team of character. I also filmed parents and grandparents and got their perspective on the upcoming season.
We shot a lot of pre-season footage. I regularly filmed the 70+ student-athletes who were showing up for conditioning. Then the season officially began and the team could begin to practice together.
I remember filming waking my son Julian up for the first practice. It was held at 6:00am, with a second practice later after school. I woke Julian up at 5:14am with the camera running. Julian was not pleased that I was filming him waking up and all groggy and stuff and let me know it. The footage is pretty funny, but I doubt it will make its way into the documentary. Maybe we’ll stick it in the Bloopers section though.
Here’s a couple of pictures from that first day of practice.
I filmed lots of the practices and captured some special moments like when Tech’s star player, Trey Lyles, talked about each of the other players on the team.
Trey spoke highly of all of his teammates: Jeremie Tyler, a senior who could jump out of the gym, who was an exceptional outside shooter and who could get to the rim; Mikey Jones, a senior and gifted zone breaker who was clutch in big games; Justin Parker, a transfer from Northwest High School and another senior, who was a gifted two-way wing; Rawshan Richardson, another senior who had great jumping ability, who ran the court well and who would end up getting lots of dunks that year; Demetrius Shaw, a senior and one of the toughest guys around, who played power forward; John Roberts, a senior and transfer from Pike High School, who had great handles and was a good shooter. There were two other seniors on this team who were brought along for their leadership, hard work, and as a tribute to their participation in the program: Jason Beck and Devin Mickens. CJ Walker, a sophomore, was a team captain and starter as point guard. He was the playmaker. Then there were the two juniors, Donteau Gladney, Jr. who was an amazing defensive stopper and whose dad is one of my best friends; and Eric Meeks, a left-handed shooting guard who was fast, athletic and played hard. Tech was stacked.
Then the season started. We filmed it all. Tech won their first game against Warren Central. Then lost their second to Bowman Academy, in a packed house in Gary, IN. My mom and dad were in town, and we had spent Thanksgiving with friends in Chicago. We caught the game on the way back from Indy from Chicago. It started at least 1.5 hours after the scheduled start time. I wonder if that had anything to do with Tech’s loss to Bowman. The next two games where at the Marshall County Hoop Fest where Tech beat the top ranked team in Kentucky, Louisville Ballard, and the third ranked team in the country, Huntington Prep. Beating Huntington Prep was a turning point of the season.
In game five of the season, Tech beat their nemesis Cathedral by a big margin. Then there was the Huntington Prep game at Tech that was broadcast live on ESPN. Actor Mike Epps, a Tech Alumni, was at that game. Lot’s of alumni came back for that game. The team was so pumped after they won. We got great video of them dancing in the locker room afterwards. They were hyped!
Next Tech beat Evansville North. Then at the Indianapolis Public Schools Athletic Conference (IPSAC) Showcase, Tech beat Marion High School, featuring James Blackmon Jr., who was a terrific player. Next they beat Evansville Bosse, then La Porte La Lumiere, a nationally ranked team, with junior Jalen Coleman, who my son Julian had played with on the eighth grade basketball team at Crispus Attucks.Their next victory came against Lake Central, who Tech would meet up with again in the State 4A Championship game. They beat them soundly.
Then there was the Indy Legacy Showcase game against Park Tudor. Trevon Bluitt of Park Tudor and Trey Lyles went back and forth, both having huge games. The game went into overtime with Tech eventually pulling ahead by Lyle’s free throw shooting. At the end of the season, Trey was named “Mr. Basketball” of Indiana just edging out Trevon. Lots of alumni were there for that game.
Then Tech traveled to Paduca, KY, for the McCracken showcase and beat Cleveland St. Villa, the number one team in Ohio. Their fourteenth game of the season was against fellow IPS school Northwest which they handily won. Next came the Indianapolis City Tournament. Tech blew out Covenant Christian, won a hard-fought game against Howe, and then beat Cathedral in the championship game. That was a high another high point for the season. Tech was cruising, and overconfident.
Their second loss of the season came to Hamilton SE, who were ranked the number two team in Indiana. Tech came out flat, while Hamilton SE came out playing hard and firing on all pistons. The loss happened on Tech’s home court. It was a hard loss for the team, but good. It focused them on each upcoming game and strengthened their resolve to not lose again. They didn’t. The last three games of the season were victories against Pike, Zionsville on Senior night, and Ben Davis.
Julian and I not only took video footage at games, but we also captured pre-game speeches and fun, half-time footage, and locker room celebrations after the games. We talked to fans and family, coaches’ wives and their kids, players and students.
As we traveled with the team and talked with those who surrounded them and cheered them on through the season, one phrase was repeated again and again by the coaches and players: “We are family.”
“We are family” symbolized the season. It described how the coaches and players had each other’s backs, that they were going to stick together through thick and thin. But it came to symbolize more than just team-as-family. As the magical season unfolded, more and more Tech students and alumni, teachers and administrators, friends and family, started coming to the games. As the buzz about this team grew, the larger “Tech family” rallied around them. The stands were packed for their games.
Landon Turner was one of the Tech family who rallied to the team. Landon was a past Tech basket star who had played one season at Indiana University player before his back was broken in a car accident, derailing his basketball career. Coach Delaney arranged for Landon to meet with the players. He spoke to them about the importance of what they represented to their families, to Tech, and to the Indianapolis community. He called for them to be the team to finally lead Tech to the State Championship.
The “Tech family” was excited about this Titan team. But no one foresaw how they would inspire the whole Indianapolis Public School family, and, eventually, the entire city.