Longtime followers of Dunbar boys basketball still carry the memories of some of the storied program's greatest moments.
There was the 1982-83 team that won a mythical national championship and is one of the best high school teams to play in Baltimore, if not the country. Some Poets fans go all the way back to the 1973 Dunbar-DeMatha game at the Baltimore Civic Center that demonstrated just how good basketball was in the city.
Three players who went through Dunbar, including former Raven Tommy Polley, believe those memories should be preserved and presented to an audience beyond Baltimore. Polley, Rob Foster and David Manigault are making a documentary film titled Poet Pride that will chronicle the history of Dunbar basketball, dating to the 1950s.
"We were just sitting around with some fellow Dunbar Poet alums and some guys I went to school with back in the day, and we all just decided that we had a story," said Foster, a 1995 Dunbar graduate who works as a counselor for adolescent males at For My Kids in Baltimore. "A story that needed to be told, basically."
The three have worked on the project for about a year under their company name Big Vision Films. The documentary is planned to be about 90 minutes and is tentatively scheduled for release next spring.
Production costs to this point are around $50,000, and are being financed primarily through Polley, who spent six season in the NFL, including 2005 with the Ravens. Manigault, an actor and director in Los Angeles, is working to get the film picked up by a major movie company.
The story begins in the '50s, when players encountered segregation. It'll show the '80s and '90s teams that won mythical national championships. It will also take an in-depth look at some of the great players who changed the program and how it was perceived, such as Dicky Kelly (1966 graduate), Skip Wise ('74) and Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues ('83).
"It's such an important story to be told because the program was brilliant at the height of it," said Manigault, who went to Dunbar in 1994 and '95 before finishing at St. Frances. "Players like Muggsy and Skip Wise, if it weren't for those guys, Baltimore basketball wouldn't be what it is."
Lake Clifton coach Herman "Tree" Harried, who played for Dunbar from 1982 to 1984, said: "It was a different era from this point in time. In that era, if you wanted to play basketball, you wanted to go to Dunbar. At that time, Dunbar was the team in the country, not just the city."
Polley, Foster and Manigault have traveled the country interviewing former players and followers of the program for the documentary. Dunbar alums who went on to play in the NBA such as Bogues, Reggie Williams ('83) and Sam Cassell ('89) have been contacted to be included in the film, as has former Dunbar coach and current Baltimore City coordinator of athletics Bob Wade.
"I thought something like this was long overdue," said Wade, who coached Dunbar from 1975 to 1986. "A lot of folks outside of the boundaries of Maryland, they began knowing of Dunbar in the late '70s, but Dunbar had a rich history prior to the Dunbar-DeMatha contest. It's nice that they would have the foresight to do something like that to let the entire nation know about the success at Dunbar."
Once the documentary is complete, the three filmmakers hope the story will have nationwide appeal.
"I played in the NFL, I've been everywhere, and everywhere I go, when I say I went to Dunbar, everybody knows what I'm talking about," said Polley, who graduated from Dunbar in 1996. "They say, 'Oh, where Muggsy went, where Reggie Lewis went,' so it was a no-brainer for me."
Harried, who played professional basketball overseas, received a similar reception about his alma mater.
"I remember playing basketball over in England in '91 or '92, and one of the basketball magazines there, they had a story on Dunbar being the best basketball team to exist," Harried said. "Something like that speaks for itself. One of the fans gave it to me after the game, saying they were talking about my high school."
Foster said that most of the filming should be done by next month. There is already a trailer of the film at www.poetpride.com. Part of the reason they're still filming is because other Dunbar alums have seen the trailer and asked to take part in the film.
Once the movie is complete, the filmmakers hope to invite Poets players and fans to a screening of the film in Baltimore.
"What makes this story special is that Dunbar basketball has a strong film presence," Manigault said. "Our area needs another film that shows Baltimore in a different light. This basketball story has a universal appeal because you have your adversity, you have your hardship, you have your racism all caught up in this school.
"The school still persevered."
To see video of Rob Foster and Tommy Polley talking about the Dunbar documentary, go to baltimoresun.com/poets