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ETSU great Jennings hopes movie brings back memories, creates new ones

By Joe Avento • Mar 11, 2018 at 1:45 PM

JOHNSON CITY — After East Tennessee State’s fourth consecutive Southern Conference men’s basketball championship in 1992, the players went their separate ways. The playmaker on three of those squads wants to make sure his friends and their exploits are never forgotten.

Mister Jennings, ETSU’s former All-America point guard, is putting together a movie called “4Ever.” The documentary is expected to give an inside look at what made those Bucs tick, along with pranks they played on each other and even some fights that occurred.

“Some friends told me my story could be a movie,” said Jennings, who patrolled the backcourt for ETSU from 1987-91. “When I wrote my book and started going over the memories and the facts for those years at East Tennessee State, it made me think, ‘They still talk about us so much, I wonder if we could put it on DVD and show them some of the good inside stuff.’ ”

That’s the key, Jennings says. The inside stuff. He’s hoping to bring back memories but also to create some new ones with some things ETSU fans never knew about his teams.

“They still don’t know that part of the brotherhood,” he said. “They always saw the smiles and the highlights. This is different. We’re going to show them things they never knew.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it brings you to tears or makes you laugh. This is crazy. You never knew these guys were like that.”

Jennings’ given name is Keith, but nobody in Johnson City calls him that. In fact, they don’t even use his last name. He’s simply Mister.

Jennings set all kinds of records on his way to being a two-time Southern Conference player of the year and a consensus All-American in 1991. He’s the most accurate 3-point shooter in conference history, making 59.2 percent during the 1990-91 season and 49.3 percent for his career. Both marks remain league records.

In addition, no SoCon player has had more assists in a game (19), a season (301) or a career (983) than Jennings. His name is mentioned in the SoCon record book 54 times.

Along the way, the Bucs climbed as high as No. 10 in The Associated Press national rankings. Back then, ETSU would routinely beat schools such as Tennessee, Wake Forest and North Carolina State.

“It’s a great story,” said Smalltown Productions’ Sterling Foster, who is producing the movie. “I was a fan growing up. These guys are great. Everybody sees the basketball clips, but where you get to see how close these guys are as a family and comrades, you’ll be amazed.”

The movie was originally set to come out in February or March to coincide with the NCAA tournament. Production has been delayed as Foster finishes up the last of the interviews.

“March Madness would have been a good time,” Jennings said. “I know how special that time of year is for our Bucs fans who were around during that frenzy that we created. It will still get some attention.”

Foster is headed to Charleston, S.C., to talk to Les Robinson, the Bucs’ coach from 1985-90, this week. That’s the last of his scheduled interviews. After that, the editing will begin in earnest.

“I assure you this — it will be well worth the wait,” Foster said. “The more people I interview and the more I put this thing together, it’s just amazing. It’s going to be unbelievable. The design is in the fourth quarter.

“We want to make sure everything is right. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, just like that ETSU team.”

Jennings, the women’s coach at Lees-McRae College these days, has always been a crowd favorite wherever he’s played, from ETSU to the Golden State Warriors to overseas, where he enjoyed a long and productive professional career. He’s hoping the movie will bring some smiles to ETSU fans. It might even introduce a whole new generation of fans to what has been called the glory days of Bucs basketball.

“I’m big on appreciation,” Jennings said. “I spent four years there, and they treated me so well. I know signing autographs and everything is a good way to say thank you to the fans, but we wanted to do something more. The way the world is the right now, any way that you can make people smile and remember the good things in life is a good thing.”

Jennings said at least one of his former teammates asked him if he would share if the movie made any money.

“I just said ‘You’re gonna eat off my story just like you ate off my passes all your career,’ ” Jennings said.

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