Film poster
Directed byKevin Willmott
Produced byChris Blunk
Scott Richardson
J.S. Hampton
Written byScott Richardson
Kevin Willmott
StarringKip Niven
Justin Wesley
Blake Robbins
Trai Byers
Jay Karnes
Scot Pollard
CinematographyMatt Jacobson, Jeremy Osbern
Edited byStephen Deaver
Audax Films
Through A Glass Productions
Release date
  • March 7, 2014 (2014-03-07)[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million

Jayhawkers is an American sports drama/biographical film directed by Kevin Willmott, following the life of Wilt Chamberlain, Phog Allen, and the 1956 Kansas Jayhawks basketball team.


The film follows Phog Allen, head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball team from 1919 to 1956, recruiting 7 foot 1 inch Wilt Chamberlain, and the trials and tribulations that Chamberlain faces during his time with the Jayhawks, as well as Lawrence, Kansas being a parallel to the Civil Rights Movement.[2]



A portion of the budget was raised through the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, with over $54,000 raised.[3] Shot in Lawrence, Kansas, Topeka, Kansas, and Leavenworth, Kansas,[4] the film stars then-current Kansas Basketball player Justin Wesley as Chamberlain.[5] The 6-foot-9 forward was recommended for the role by KU coach Bill Self to Willmott.[6]

A teaser trailer was shown at Late Night in the Phog 2012,[7] The film premiered in Lawrence, Kansas, on February 14, 2014, and made its public debut on February 28, 2014 at Liberty Hall near the University of Kansas campus.[8]


Ben Sachs of The Chicago Reader said he “admired Willmott’s skill in executing the basketball sequences, which illustrate more vividly than in most sports movies how athletics can become an outlet for personal and professional anxieties.” [9] Loey Lockerby of The Kansas City Star wrote, “Willmott offers a creative and intriguing look at Lawrence in the 1950s.”

In 2020, The New Yorker critic Richard Brody wrote an article revisiting the film, praising it as “an exemplary, even thrilling, historical drama." Brody said, "All of the subjects woven into the drama are treated substantially and considered in detail — especially the politics of race and of the nascent, and widely resisted, civil-rights movement.”[10]


  1. ^ "'Jayhawkers' Depicts Wilt Chamberlain's Lasting Effect On KU And Lawrence, KS". www.kmuw.org. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  2. ^ "Synopsis - Jayhawkers - Movie (2014)". jayhawkersmovie.com. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
  3. ^ ""Jayhawkers" - Feature Film by Kevin Willmott — Kickstarter". kickstarter.com. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
  4. ^ Gutierrez, Lisa (February 8, 2014). "'Jayhawkers' to tell Wilt Chamberlain's KU story in film". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  5. ^ Bush, Ann Marie (August 29, 2012). "Crew films portion of 'Jayhawkers' in Topeka". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  6. ^ Pocowatchit, Rod (March 7, 2014). "'Jayhawkers' movie tells Wilt Chamberlain's story". The Wichita Eagle. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
  7. ^ "YouTube - Late Night in the Phog 2012. - Jayhawkers Movie Trailer". youtube.com. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
  8. ^ "JAYHAWKERS — Liberty Hall". libertyhall.net. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
  9. ^ Sachs, Ben (July 31, 2014). "'Jayhawkers' review". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
  10. ^ Brody, Richard (July 17, 2020). "'Jayhawkers,' a Thrillingly Analytical Drama of Wilt Chamberlain's College Years". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 6, 2020.