As it is in life, timing is everything in the world of sports.
Every athlete with professional talent has his or her peak, but peaking too soon – or too late – could turn dreams of glory into a living nightmare.
If anyone attending the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) did not know this going into the just-concluded annual event, the point was driven home with the viewing of the debut of “Manchild: The Schea Cotton Story,” which is directed and co-written by Eric ‘Ptah’ Herbert (along with Michael Landers).
It tells the story of the rise, fall – and redemption – of now 38-year-old Vernon Scheavalie “Schea” Cotton, a Los Angeles-area basketball prodigy tabbed for greatness at a young age that he never quite achieved.
Attending the LAFF for Coach & Player Magazine, Mariah Ann Harris felt the star-studded documentary packed an emotional wallop that won’t be lost on viewers, basketball fans or not.
“I thought the film was very inspirational,” she said. “It’s a great story. He dedicated himself to basketball at a young age, he played through college and professionally. He was one of, if not the best, player on every team he played on. – Mariah Ann Harris”
Schea Cotton was considered physically mature as an incoming high school freshman to the extent that he was already fielding recruiting pitches, but the road to glory was strewn with obstacles.
Because his SAT scores were red-flagged by the NCAA, he was blocked from UCLA and then North Carolina State. He played at Long Branch Community College and then at Alabama before declaring for the NBA Draft as an overaged sophomore.
He went undrafted and never played a minute in the NBA. Instead, he became a basketball vagabond, playing for 14 different teams in various leagues in seven different countries (USA included) between 2001 and 2010.
“He ended up not getting drafted into the NBA, which was his dream,” said Harris, who attended the viewing of the documentary June 2. “He didn’t give up, though, and he played out of the country (and in minor leagues) for about 10 years.”
He even had a stint with the Harlem Globetrotters, but could never live down the unfulfilled promise that led to a suicidal depression.
“He went through so much turmoil, trying to stay in the game,” said Harris. “At one point, he was even suicidal.
“He even had a gun ready and loaded. Before he was going to do it, he told his girlfriend and she said she wanted to go with him. Then he thought, ‘If I can have this much of a negative impact on someone, I can make a bigger positive impact.
“I think that was the turning point.”
Today, as shown in the documentary, Cotton has flipped the script and dedicated his life to working with children.
Said Harris: “He never gave up on the one thing he loved, even though that same thing caused him pain and he didn’t end up where he wanted. Now he is working with children and that is great.” – Mariah Ann Harris
“He turned negative events into positives and is now making a difference in the lives of children. I think that kind of a message speaks to many people. It’s not just a story about basketball, but about life – about how you can go through so much and still get back up and make a difference in other people’s lives.”