A documentary about Earnest Killum Jr., a former Lynwood High School standout who passed away at age 20, is just one of many hoops documentaries on the horizon. All of these subjects covered in the documentaries are athletes Cal-Hi Sports covered or saw play over the years. The Earnest Killum Jr. documentary screening is set for Saturday, August 10 in Long Beach.
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Every so often an athlete comes along whose on-court abilities are matched by his or her humility and ability to touch the lives of others because of his or her off-the-court character. It’s quite rare to come across an athlete with those qualities who had the on-court ability of Earnest Killum Jr.
Killum Jr. was a 1990 graduate of Lynwood High School, which is located in a tough Southeast Los Angeles neighborhood, who earned a basketball scholarship to Oregon State University. He was raised in nearby Watts, an even tougher neighborhood that was gang-infested and drug-plagued during Killum’s childhood and famous for the civil unrest that hit its streets in 1965.
Killum Jr. rose above those obstacles and developed into one of the state’s top three players by his senior season after entering high school approximately 5-foot-9 and 140 pounds. Killum benefited from a growth spurt — he was 6-foot-4 by his junior season — but what really spawned his development was a relentless work ethic. After spending countless hours developing his game at Watts’ Markham Middle School and seeking competition throughout playgrounds and gyms in Los Angeles, Killum led Lynwood to a 31-3 record as a senior.
He combined a 42-inch vertical with a devastating first step to average 29.4 points per game and shoot 41 percent from 3-point range as a senior. Killum was named the 1990 Cal-Hi Sports Div. I State Player of the Year.
Despite having to sit out his freshman year of college, Killum was a major NBA two-guard prospect until he suffered a mild stroke in July 1991. He decided to continue pursuing a basketball career, and was eventually cleared to join the OSU basketball team in December of that year.
Four nights after he played his final college game — and five nights after his No. 23 jersey was retired by Lynwood during a ceremony at the school’s gym — Killum Jr. passed away on January 20, 1992 following a more serious stroke.
He was 20 years old.
Mark Woods, Killum’s younger brother who was a freshman at Lynwood when Earnest was a senior, has finished a documentary film titled “Earnest Killum Jr.: The Life, The Game, The Legacy” and is hosting a public screening on August 10 in Long Beach. The event will be held at:
Cultural Alliance of Long Beach
727 Pine Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90813
“A couple of things inspired me to complete this documentary,” said Woods, who was executive producer of the film. “Earnest was this great basketball player whose career and life were cut short due to his untimely passing. As his younger brother looking in from the outside, I saw a guy who really loved basketball and was on a mission to compete in the NBA. Earnest was also a great person who was a magnet to people.”
There will be two screenings, one at 2 p.m. and another at 3:30 p.m. The cost is $5 at the door and the proceeds go to the Earnest Killum Scholarship Fund.
In 2010, Killum Jr. was named one of California’s top playground legends ever in a ESPN-produced countdown to celebrate streetball players and culture in California in conjunction with the Under Armour Elite 24. That event was held at Venice Beach between 2010 and 2012.
“I feel more people know about Earnest after he was named No. 6 top Cali Streetballer by ESPN RISE,” Woods said. “That notoriety played a nice role in keeping Earnest’s legacy alive. Earnest still affects my life today. As his younger brother growing up under him, I learned to love God, be nice and respectful to people, and work hard because it will pay off.”
The documentary chronicles Killum Jr.’s short, but memorable, basketball career and his impact on his teammates, classmates and family. Cal-Hi Sports had a chance to view the documentary in a special pre-screening and came away impressed with how Killum sincerely touched the lives of his classmates and how much he was idolized by his former teammates. The documentary could have shed a bit more light on his formative years and on the circumstances surrounding his untimely passing, but it is still a must see for anyone with ties to the California basketball community.
For more info on Killum Jr’s life and exploits, CLICK HERE.
“Earnest Killum Jr.: The Life, The Game, The Legacy” is not the only basketball documentary on the horizon. Here is a quick snap shot of other hoops’ docs on the horizon or just recently released.
“At All Costs” –– This upcoming documentary takes a candid look at life inside travel/grassroots basketball. The film focuses on the Compton Magic program and the career of Parker Jackson-Cartwright, a senior-to-be at Loyola High School in Los Angeles who played in the spring and summer with California Supreme. For more info, follow on Twitter: @AtAllCostsMovie
“Man Child” — This long-anticipated documentary takes a look at basketball prodigy Schea Cotton. The biggest name on the SoCal hoops scene during the 1990s, Cotton won multiple AAU national championships and led Mater Dei of Santa Ana to the Div. I state title as a sophomore. Cotton is the only sophomore ever named Cal-Hi Sports Div. I State Player of the Year. A nationally known figure before playing even a single high school game, injury and a battle with the NCAA derailed Cotton’s development after that magical sophomore season. For more info, follow Cotton on Twitter: @SCBA78
“Lenny Cooke” — In the summer of 2001, Lenny Cooke was the most hyped high school basketball player in the country. But a matchup against 16-year-old LeBron James at the 2001 adidas ABCD Camp changed all that. Lenny never made it to the NBA and in this documentary, filmmaking brothers Joshua and Benny Safdie track the unfulfilled destiny of a young, brash New Yorker who came along during the zenith of over-hyped high school basketball stars. For more info, visit lennycookemovie.com
“Bounce Back: The Story of Ronnie Fields” — In 1996, Fields was one of the top basketball prospects in the world. After teaming with future NBA star Kevin Garnett at Chicago’s Farragut High School as a junior during the 1994-95 season, a near fatal car crash towards the end of his senior season changed Fields’ life forever. This doc is one man’s journey to the edge of darkness, and how he emerged from it. For more info, visit ronniefieldsbounceback.com