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Four years, and the script is still being worked on

`Second Chance Season' chronicles basketball star Nick Young's journey. The NBA draft will add a new chapter.

June 22, 2007|Sheigh Crabtree | Special to The Times

Nick Young is getting antsy with his back to the basketball court.

Like an inside man unable to enjoy his meal without a clear line on the front door, the 22-year-old was slightly preoccupied by random sneaker squeaks, the echoing backboard and rim thumps coming from behind him one recent afternoon in Beverlywood as he talked about "Second Chance Season," the documentary about Young and his family that premieres tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

One part inspirational family sports drama and one part wrenching struggle between forgiveness and revenge, director Daniel H. Forer's documentary is a sure-footed account of a gregarious mother and father who raise one athletic prodigy but lose two other sons to the streets of Los Angeles.

Young talks a little about his pro workouts across the country this spring ("Everybody said it was going to be lonely on the road"), his new line of Topps trading cards (eliciting a shy smile) and Thursday's NBA draft, in which he will be one of 15 players chosen to stand on stage ("a childhood dream").

The conversation at the Robertson Rec Center on this afternoon becomes more restrained, however, when it turns to a key subject of the documentary: the Young family's deeply conflicted feelings about confronting the young man who murdered their oldest son. (The opportunity to meet arises through a novel criminal rehabilitation program.)

"My mom is not interested," Young says. "She gets down. She gets sad too easy. It would not be a good thing for her. My dad.... One day he might want to, one day he might not."

Between the sports fantasy highs and the all-too-real local lows that frame Young's life, Forer fills in the blanks -- in his documentary and in person.

The seasoned TV sports producer spent four years with Young and family, amassing more than 250 hours of tape in the process. During the interview, he frequently steps in to provide back story. Or gives Young advice on sports agents and fatherly tips. (When Young mentions Nike, Forer jumps in: "No, no. You don't want to name the companies you're talking to until the deals are done.")

Forer is hyper-aware of entering into negotiations with some leverage right now.

Five companies are circling his movie for exclusive North American broadcast rights, he says. A favorable deal would certainly ease the financial pressure he faces. In order to complete his 90-minute documentary in time to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival, he had to take out a second mortgage on his home.

While making the movie, Forer also ended up becoming the legal guardian to two boys he met while filming the documentary, both of whom have since gone on to college sports programs. (Forer's son, Ben, is a broadcast journalism major at Syracuse University.) And now, thanks to the exceptional life of Nick Young, the documentary will take on a new ending when it screens for the second time.

Forer will be shooting the draft in Madison Square Garden in New York. He then plans to race home and cut in a new ending of "Second Chance Season" for the last screening at the film festival, scheduled for July 1. "Every time we think we're finished, something happens," Forer says.

No longer a star USC guard but not yet a professional, Young looks like a fresh-faced assistant coach in a pair of khakis and a green T-shirt that graces his 6-foot-7 frame. His single iced-out cashew-shaped earring speaks to Young's fiscal reveries. The former sociology major decided to forgo his senior year at USC for a shot at the pros and the chance to buy his parents a deluxe home in Porter Ranch. It's an area Mae and Charles Young grew to love on their long commutes from their modest three-bedroom near Robertson and Pico to the San Fernando Valley, where Nick attended Cleveland High, to attend their son's high school games.

"I thought it was better for me and my family to skip my senior year at USC," Young says. "I feel like I was getting old there." It's not hard to imagine where the sentiment comes from; one of Young's former USC coaches recently made headlines for bagging an unprecedented commitment from a 14-year-old from Chicago who has yet to enter high school.

Not coincidentally, one of the most charged scenes in the movie unfolds when USC coaches descend on the Youngs' apartment and convince the player to make an oral agreement.

"It was shocking going through that whole process," Young says. "If I knew how things were going to turn out, or knew what I know now, I think I could handle that scene a little better."

While he attended USC, he spent very little time in his dorm, frequently heading home. "I didn't really know nobody; the coaches were changing up [a coaching change]. It was hard on campus and on the court," he says. If he has his way, Young will stay in L.A. to be near his family and play for the Lakers.

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