Four years ago, Tyquone Greer was the star of Orr Academy High School’s basketball team. And he did what stars do: He nailed a game-winning shot. In this case, it was a baseline 3-pointer with three seconds left that sent his West Garfield Park school to the 2014 Class 3A Final Four.
What made the moment all the more surreal: A week earlier, at a house party in Austin, Greer had caught a stray bullet in the calf. He’d arrived at the gym on crutches and barely played until the final seconds. The 3-pointer was the first time he’d shot the ball all game.
“It wasn’t even joy in the moment—it was pure shock,” says filmmaker Dustin Nakao Haider, whose documentary about Greer and his Orr teammates, Shot in the Dark, premieres February 24 at 3:30 p.m. on Fox. Nakao Haider, along with producer Daniel Poneman and cinematographer Ben Vogel, had been following the young star since the 2011–12 season, when he was a sophomore, logging hundreds of hours of footage: Greer moving in with his grandmother after his mother took a job in Mississippi, visiting a teammate at Cook County Jail, breaking into tears in front of his coach as neighborhood and team pressures mounted.
But it wasn’t until “the shot” that the three knew they were caretakers of what could be “a really special film—if we earned it,” Nakao Haider says. Poneman recalls celebrating with Greer’s mother at a TGI Fridays afterward and thinking, What now? For him, the question was as much about Greer’s future as the film’s. Since his 2009 graduation from Evanston Township High School, where he met Nakao Haider, the 26-year-old Poneman has run a nonprofit that connects overlooked high school basketball players with prospective colleges. “If you’re good enough to play college basketball, it’s my job to make sure you get an offer,” says Poneman. He’s not talking about future NBA stars. “Those kids are few and far between. What I try and pinpoint are the kids who can graduate college and reenter their communities as coaches, teachers, mentors.”
Greer was that kind of player. So when Nakao Haider, then based in New York, approached Poneman about making a film to counteract the narrative of violence coming out of his hometown, Poneman suggested the young athlete as a subject. “He leapt off the page,” says Nakao Haider. “I was seeing so much negative media surrounding Chicago, and I knew there were some other stories to be told.” That mission is ultimately what attracted executive producers Dwyane Wade, who played for Richards High School in Oak Lawn and saw himself in Greer, and Chance the Rapper, whom Nakao Haider had filmed for a short documentary on Jay-Z’s website in 2012.
Shot in the Dark, though, doesn’t sugarcoat the violence that Greer and his teammates live with. In an early scene, Greer prays at a makeshift memorial to two slain friends. “Just based on where you’re from, you’re obligated to be part of a gang,” Greer says in the film. Adds his coach, Lou Adams: “I tell him all the time: ‘You really don’t know what you’re doing out here. This will suck you up.’ ”
Ultimately, Shot in the Dark is the story of escaping that violence, even if it means leaving Chicago. After graduating from Orr, Greer accepted a basketball scholarship to Daytona State, which competes at the junior college level. (He later transferred to Hofstra, then Division II Ferris State, where he’s now a senior on the team.) In the film’s final moments, Greer walks along a beach in Daytona, reflecting on his life. “I like playing basketball,” he says, then starts to add that he doesn’t love it. But he stops himself. “I love it because it’s going to give me a free education. I know what basketball can do for me and my family, so I do it.”
Says Nakao Haider: “To me, that’s the thesis of the movie.”