Upcoming documentary chronicles divergent paths of Turner brothers

ldannhauser@herald-leader.comJuly 1, 2013 

Former Kentucky basketball standout Wayne Turner and his brother, Baron "Tiny" Turner, are the subjects of a documentary in the midst of production.

The Mission uses the brothers' lives to tell the story of a community of underprivileged people in Mission Hill, Boston, and the role basketball had in their lives.

Wayne and Tiny had similar basketball talents and prospects, but their lives went in different directions. Wayne had an outstanding career as a point guard for UK while Tiny, two years younger, played in the prison leagues.

"My idea was getting out my life story," said Wayne said, who has started his own basketball company and is currently directing a five-week camp. "I don't think (my fans) truly know who I am."

Wayne said the film is more about Tiny's story than his own.

"It's mainly his message to give back to the kids who are going through what he went through," Wayne said.

Like Wayne's brother, many kids from Mission Hill fell victim to the violence and drugs that surrounded them. The documentary shows both sides of the Turners' story.

"There's a lot of Wayne's and a lot of Tiny's," said Brian Culkin, writer and editor of The Mission and a former AAU teammate of Tiny's. Culkin had the idea for the documentary after reconnecting with Tiny last year. "They are a perfect representation."

Culkin said there were many factors that led to the brothers' divergent life paths. Luck was one of them.

"It was a total chance thing," Culkin said. "There was a high probability that (Wayne) doesn't leave."

At a summer basketball camp, Wayne was spotted by a coach from the Beaver Country Day School, a private school in Chestnut Hill, Mass. He eventually was named a McDonald's All-American, Gatorade Player of the Year and Parade All-American.

From there, Wayne went on to UK, where he helped the Wildcats win NCAA titles in 1996 and 1998. Afterward, Wayne played for the Boston Celtics and the Harlem Globetrotters before playing professionally in Australia and New Zealand. He recently returned to UK to finish his degree, a first for someone in his family.

On the other end of the spectrum, Tiny was an unbelievable player with talent that matched Wayne's, Culkin said. Tiny led his team to the summer league city championships. But he was not given the opportunity to play at any private schools in the area.

"Taking kids out of Mission Hills was a very risky proposition," Culkin said.

Shortly after Wayne came to Kentucky, Tiny was arrested for armed robbery. He spent the next 10 years in and out of prison.

But Tiny's experience is not an anomaly.

"A lot of people had just as much talent as Tiny and didn't make it," Culkin said.

The film is not just a basketball story.

On the Kickstarter fund raising page for The Mission, Culkin said the documentary "is not only an investigation into the lives of two brothers who took drastically different paths, but also an inquiry into the social dynamics and history of the very housing projects and culture that so deeply impacted the lives of the Turner brothers."

The Mission is currently in the editing phase of production. While most of shooting is done, the project is still looking for backers.

Wayne said funds are needed "to help the project be as good as it can be in terms of the editing and the graphics." The film will be released even if they do not reach their fund-raising goal of $55,000. He said it will be released by January at the latest.

"I'm really excited about it going out," Wayne said. "Hopefully we can get the support ... to make it the best that we can."

Culkin said there will be a premiere in Boston and he wants to have one in Lexington as well. For anyone who is interested in seeing the film, Culkin recommends following its Twitter account (@themissiondoc) and Facebook pages for updates.

Leigh Dannhauser: ldannhauser@herald-leader.com Twitter: @heraldleader

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