January 18, 2020

Chanukah Hoop Dreams

Picture the "Bad News Bears" in a basketball court, add kippot and a dash of Chanukah and you have the makings of the Disney Channel’s latest original movie, "Full-Court Miracle." The film is based on the true story of Lamont Carr (Richard T. Jones), a down-and-out former University of Virginia basketball star, who is asked to coach the Hebrew Academy Lions by the team’s captain Alex Schlotsky (14-year-old Alex D. Linz). Schlotsky, after learning about the Chanukah legend in school, is convinced that Carr is really Judah Maccabee. Meanwhile, Alex’s mother, a doctor, wants him to give up basketball and follow in her footsteps.

The real Carr, whose knee problems kept him out of the NBA, was introduced to Jewish basketball when he was asked to run a Boca Raton JCC camp during Passover in the early ’90s. He also coached for the Maccabee Games and is currently on sabbatical from Donna Klein Academy.

"When I saw [the movie] for the first time, I swelled up [with pride] a little bit," said Carr, who was a consultant for the film and worked with the young cast on their court skills. "The actors didn’t know jack about basketball…. They looked like the Three Stooges."

Linz is an ice hockey fan, but he thinks that Disney’s airing of a Chanukah-themed movie is "awesome"; he also enjoyed Carr’s coaching methods.

"During one scene, I had to do a shooting drill," he said. "He put a psychological spin on it."

While the miracle of Chanukah pops up in the dramatic finale — involving dwindling fuel in the gym’s generator — Linz and Carr have their own take on modern miracles.

"I was brought up in a very logical place," said Linz, who had his bar mitzvah at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. "But I think they would [happen]."

"Miracles happen all the time," said Carr, who became a fan of glatt kosher food after he started working with the JCC. "That I can give this interview is a miracle."

"Full-Court Miracle" premieres on the Disney Channel at 8 p.m., Fri., Nov. 21.; Sat., Nov. 22; and Sun., Nov. 23.