58ºF

'Jacksonville Who?' documentary gets red carpet treatment at JU

The film about the 1969-70 national runner-up team will air in February

photo

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Their story may be more than 40 years old, but the Jacksonville University basketball team that finished runner-up in 1969-70 still answers the question of "Jacksonville Who?"

Producer Frank Pace made the documentary about the team that came out of nowhere to capture the heart of a city that was segregated during their run to the NCAA Championship.  "Jacksonville Who?" not only tries to answer the question as to who these guys were that took a legendary UCLA team to the brink but who was the city of Jacksonville at the time and how this team changed it forever.

"Reflecting back on those early memories, it was a unique time in history," said basketball hall of famer Aritis Gilmore, the most recognizable player on that 1969-70 team. "It was a tremendous experience for all of us and the opportunity to relive some of that and share some of the feelings at the time, it is a tremendous piece of history."

Pace came to JU in 1968 from New York to play soccer for the Dolphins and says that actually being there at the time and living through it made it more difficult to make the film.

"The hardest thing I had to do with this film was taking my emotions and personal feelings out of it for the sake of the film," said Pace.  "It was not easy to do."

Pace went on to say during a question and answer session after the film's first public viewing that the time was right to make this film because of both the culture of the country right now and the fact that some of the key players on the team are no longer alive.  He said that it was very important to him that this story gets told.

"I thought the movie was fantastic," said Mike Blevins, a forward on the 1969-70 team.  "It really took me back and made me think I was there again.  It was exciting, I could feel the excitement of the crowd and the way I felt at the time. It was just excellent."

Blevins went on to say that the movie accurately captured the racial tension in Jacksonville at that time. The Dolphins were the only team in the South to start three black athletes that season.  By comparison, the SEC did not have a team that started more than one.  Blevins says outside the gates to JU, that racial divide was much more prevalent that inside.

"On campus, we didn't even know black from white," said Blevins. "We were all just one big family.  It wasn't just on campus, it was on the basketball court as well.  It brought all of that back and made it real again."

"Jacksonville Who?" will air on NBA TV in February as part of their Black History Month celebration.