When it comes to basketball, Prince George’s County, Maryland, is what you might call a breeding ground.
Former NBA champ Quinn Cook is one of five guys on his high school team alone who made the NBA. Names like Kevin Durant, Victor Oladipo, Steve Francis, Michael Beasley, Jeff Green, Markelle Fultz, Jerami Grant, and WNBA star Marissa Coleman all got their start shooting hoops on the playgrounds and in the rec centers of PG County.
Now, a new documentary produced by Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures is taking a closer look at the historical, economic, and cultural context around the hotbed he calls home.
Basketball County: In the Water is a feature-length spotlight on this area, and the people who have helped it produce so many top athletes. It’s a variety of ingredients that include recreation infrastructure investment, such as an extensive network of outdoor parks and community centers, combined with the leadership of legendary DeMatha High School coach Morgan Wootten starting in the 1950s, the emergence of celebrated AAU youth basketball programs in the 1990s, and continuing with Durant’s own Durant Center.
Thirty Five Ventures cofounder and the film’s executive producer Rich Kleiman says Prince George’s County is always top of mind for Durant. The company is even developing a dramatic series for Apple called Swagger, based on Durant’s youth basketball experiences in the area. “You can see it in all our charitable efforts and in the foundation and Durant Center based there,” says Kleiman. “It was only a matter of time before we did something like this.”
The doc is directed by first-time directors John Beckham and Jimmy Jenkins. Kleiman says the goal was to create a gift to this place that gave Durant—and all these other professional athletes—so much. “For the broader audience, it’s amazing to see the history of the D.C. area, and how PG County was impacted by different times in our country’s history,” he says. “You see the evolution of this county, and see there were a lot of great mentors and leaders that really raised their hand to create this amazing environment for young men and women to play basketball and get out of some unfortunate situations.”
It’s just the latest entertainment project for Thirty Five Ventures, which has now produced The Boardroom, the Emmy-nominated doc Q Ball, A Kid From Coney Island doc about former NBA star Stephon Marbury, and the upcoming Swagger.
Kleiman says the new film fits perfectly into the company’s overall content strategy.
“It embodies our whole brand and philosophy, which is that we’re going to try to tell stories and create things that are important to Kevin, important to us as a company, and that deserve to be told,” he says. “If people can respect the story and see the quality of the work we do, that’s what’s most important. It’s not about finding something that will resonate with the most eyeballs or have the highest ratings. It’s really more about stories that are true and authentic to us.”
Basketball County: In the Water premieres on Showtime on May 15.