Vernon Scheavalie ‘Schea’ Cotton was a high school legend in the late 90’s. He was known as the ‘Manchild’ and later called ‘LeBron before LeBron’ by many, like Kevin Garnett. Almost two decades later, Cotton is releasing the documentary Manchild, The Schea Cotton Story: A Dream Deferred, where he answers all the questions about what happened to him after high school.
When did you come up with the idea of doing this documentary?
Schea Cotton: Well, it was about close to 12-15 years ago. It was only an idea, we wrote some stuff on paper and I met with a couple of friends of mine that were interested in doing it. At the time, it wasn’t working because I was still playing so I was back and forth… So probably 10 years back it was when we really started putting all the material together. And then the production team ArtruGroup came on board three years ago and they have been on it full-time ever since. I’ve worked really close with the media team as well, and we’re excited about it. We’ve got a lot of distribution channels already set up. There’s going to be a lot of media attention. We have 7-10 NBA players showing up at the premiere.
Can you reveal the names of some of those players?
Right now, we have confirmation from Paul Pierce, Baron Davis, Arron Afflalo, Jason Hart, Stephen Jackson… We’re excited about it. We’ve got a lot of distribution channels already set up. There’s going to be a lot of media attention here.
Why did you choose your nickname ‘Manchild’ as the title?
SC: Well, it’s really catchy, everybody classifies me by that name when they see me… They still say it. It means a man among boys, basically. When I was playing really well in high school, that’s what it seemed like when people watched me play – a man playing against boys.
If you had to choose, what’s the one thing that you wish people will remember about your movie?
SC: My drive, my resilience. No matter what happens in life, you just have to keep going. Don’t ever quit.
I watched the official trailer and lots of NBA stars like Paul Pierce, Baron Davis, Tyson Chandler and Elton Brand talk about you in the documentary. What does it mean to you?
SC: It’s a surreal feeling. We’re talking 20 years… The time is right. The stars are aligned. I’m really blessed. My father passed away around this time last year… He was a very big part of the documentary. He’s not here today, so this means a lot. And to hear NBA players come here to endorse me… It’s a tribute to my body of work as a ball player and the type of person I am.
Garnett said that you were “LeBron before LeBron.” It seems there’s a connection between you and James, that you were the original Chosen One. Do you think so?
SC: Well, the similarities are there… The way I approached the game, my physique. I didn’t mind contact, me being able to put it on the floor and get to the basket and finish with the dunk, being able to shoot, long ball, three-pointers, mid-range, you know, just creating for teammates and pretty much have my way on the floor. There was nobody else that they had seen do what I’ve done at that level.
You told SLAM Magazine that you really didn’t have a childhood because you were getting recognition and national media attention as a fifth-grader. What helped you handle all that pressure as a teenager?
SC: Staying in the gym, staying close to my family and trying to keep a small circle, staying goal-oriented and remaining humble. I think at this day and age, I don’t think the players are as good as my generation, thanks to the social media the hype is better. I feel like the player that I was, you don’t see too many of those guys today. I appreciated the process, I had fun while I played. Today it just seems to be like cash-driven, everything is more corporate. The NBA seems to be a lot more finesse, it used to be more of a tougher league and more family-oriented. This story needs to be told because I think it could impact not only NBA players, but also kids and even adults. It’s a humanitarian story, it’s not just about basketball.
Comissioner Adam Silver wants to raise the age limit for players entering the league. I guess you’re with those who think no one can decide when to become a pro, right?
SC: Yeah, I don’t feel like that’s fair. You’re denying the right to work. You can do it in tennis, in golf, in many other sports but not in the NBA.
You never made it to the NBA, but you had a successful career overseas in Serbia, China… All over the world. What did you learn from the experience of playing abroad, on the court but especially off the court?
SC: I learned the things necessary to be what I am. A lot of those experiences helped me to live with myself today back home. I played 10 years as a pro but most of the guys that are in the NBA never did any of the stuff I did. I mean, when players, some of them NBA players, got together at UCLA for pickup games, Magic Johnson would choose me to play on his team! All those experiences really gave me a better heart.
Can you tell us your all-time high school starting five?
SC: Well, I’ve got to put me in there [laughs]. So I’d choose Kareem Abdul-Jabbar… Well, he was Lew Alcindor back then… Kobe Bryant, Kenny Anderson and Kevin Garnett.
You’re leaving LeBron off the bench…
SC: Oh. Well, you’ve got me and Kobe! LeBron would be the sixth man [laughs].
How is your Basketball Academy going?
SC: Very well, it’s starting to build. I see myself as a mentor. I think I’m going to be in demand where I can go to speaking engagements as a mentor. I think that’s really going to take off faster as the documentary hits the market. And you know, doing camps with kids.
What do you think about Kobe Bryant’s comments about the AAU system? He said AAU “is horrible, terrible. It’s stupid. It doesn’t teach our kids how to play the game.”
SC: I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think a lot of the teams in the AAU circuit now maybe they are operating in that way where the kids may not be learning properly how to play the game of basketball, but when I was coming up we had great teachers like coach Gary McKnight. They knew how to handle personnel. Today we see people doing things that they aren’t supposed to be doing on the court because they don’t have the ability to do it, and they don’t have the intellect to go with that, to know how to improvise. I wouldn’t blame the AAU, I would blame those individual coaches that are not teaching the kids properly.