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Kansas forward Justin Wesley will play Wilt Chamberlain in upcoming movie

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Kansas reserve forward Justin Wesley will play Wilt Chamberlain in an upcoming movie (photo by Grant Fitch)

Justin Wesley's first foray into acting was as one of Santa's elves in a sixth-grade play. The Kansas forward's second attempt will be a bit more high profile.

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Justin Wesley as Wilt Chamberlain (photo by Grant Fitch)

Wesley will be portraying Wilt Chamberlain in the independent film "Jayhawkers," which chronicles the legendary Kansas center's impact on race relations on campus and in the surrounding community. Segregation was still the norm in Kansas prior to Chamberlain's arrival, but he chose to ignore those rules and the town's white establishment typically accepted that as a result of their passion for the Jayhawks.

"I'm mainly doing it for the history of it," Wesley told Fox Sports Kansas City's Sean Keeler.

"The backstory of the movie is the different reasons that [coach] Phog [Allen] wanted Wilt here, [while] the chancellor [Franklin Murphy] wanted Wilt here to change segregation in Lawrence. He felt like Wilt would change the whole outlook [of the city], and Phog wanted him to change basketball."

Wesley is the second prominent college basketball player to dabble in acting in the past two years. Michigan State's Delvon Roe appeared in some on-campus plays, became a theater major and landed a starring role in the film "AWOL" last summer, events which led to him pursuing a career in acting after chronic knee pain forced him to medically retire from basketball last fall.

It remains to be seen whether Wesley winds up taking acting as seriously as Roe did, but he definitely looks the part of Chamberlain in still photos. Wesley has researched Chamberlain extensively for the role, watching footage of him on the court and in media interviews so that he can emulate the "Big Dippper's" mannerisms and style of play.

There's a chance Wesley's hard work may go to waste, however, if Chamberlain's sister gets her way.

Barbara O. Chamberlain-Lewis, told the Lawrence Journal-World filmmaker Kevin Willmott doesn't have the rights to a film about her brother. Willmott decided to go ahead with a new script anyway, arguing rights were unnecessary since the film has an ensemble cast that also includes the actors playing Allen and Murphy.

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