Documentary Celebrates 100 Years of WC Bball

By Paige Kube
Elm Staff Writer

Kurt Kolaja’s documentary series features WC basketball throughout the years, including the team pictured above.
- Photo courtesy of Kurt Kolaja

Chestertown filmmaker Kurt Kolaja is going where no sports media thinks it is necessary. The unrecognized reality of NCAA’s Division III basketball is finally illuminated through the 2011-2012 Washington College men’s basketball season. In his web documentary series entitled “A Season in Division III Basketball,” Kolaja highlights the amount of time, energy, and work done by D III athletes that deserves more credit that ever received.

Although the project is far from completion, five sections introducing the different elements of D III basketball have already been finished. These clips, with titles
“Run” and “The Rules,” display the hard work and effort by D III athletes that is commonly overlooked. It is currently a web series that Kolaja hopes to develop into a full documentary after the season ends.

Kolaja found his passion for filmmaking early in life. It became his career in 1974 while shooting television news in Erie, Pa.

“We shot on film which supplied endless opportunities for disaster. It was wild fun.”

Not all filming can be so fun, however. While filming the different clips for his current web series, the filmmaker had to track the different angles of the basketball season. “I can barely keep up,” Kolaja said. “When they get to the playoffs I, quite frankly, don’t know what the hell I’m going to do.”

The craziness on camera emphasizes exactly what Kolaja hopes to illuminate: the hectic work on and off the court.

There was no difficulty, however, when it came to the team accepting Kolaja. He wasn’t merely a spectator or recorder; he became a part of the men’s basketball team.

“The entire team has opened the door and welcomed me in, and for that I am extremely grateful. They have shown me a level of trust that is quite uncommon.”

Without the team’s cooperation, such a story could not be told. Luckily, the team, too, desired to have their hard work publicized and no longer overlooked.
Head Coach Nugent said, “Kurt does an excellent job and is a wonderful film maker. He also does an excellent job at getting to the heart of our story.”

Of course, the idea of being on screen was another factor that allowed Kolaja to gain acceptance.

Freshman John Weston comments on his video debut, “It made me feel like I was on TV.”
Nugent, not a fan of appearing on the camera, was still willing to speak on film in efforts to help document the story of NCAA Division III athletics for many people to
see. “I think that it is great that someone is capturing for the world the ethos of our program while showing what NCAA Division III Athletics is all about.”

The documentary isn’t intended to reveal winning baskets and excitement on the court. Kolaja captures the sweaty truth of the painful practices and hard, straining energy put into the sport, especially in his section entitled “Run.”

As Weston said, “Kurt got a terrible shot of me right after we ran when I look like I’m about to die,.”
Kolaja attempts to show the behind the scenes truth of D III Basketball.

“My goal is to prove that college sports is not the den of snakes it may seem to be. There is no shortage of bad news out there and the howlers will make certain that everybody knows it.”

Coach Nugent believes Kolaja made his point. “One can really see the human interest story here and the passion and desire that the athletes involved have for each other and the individual and collective sacrifices that they are willing to make to become the best TEAM that they can be.”

All NCAA Division III Athletes can relate to this reality and your average spectator can finally see and appreciate D3 athletics.

So far the response has been fantastic. “When a guy like Phil Ticknor bangs the tambourine things happen. The NCAA even likes this project!”

Nonetheless, there is still a lot of game left. New pieces will be posted on the site at a rate of roughly two a month.

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