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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 09 July 2015 - 08:55 AM


Belleville News-Democrat, IL
July 8 2015

by Teri Maddox

Babe Champion is thrilled that Hollywood producers are making a movie
about the Granite City High School basketball team that won the state
championship in 1940.

The fact that Academy Award winners William Hurt and Shirley MacLaine
will play starring roles is icing on the cake.

"It's really going to happen," said Champion, 82, of Granite City, a
community activist who has been helping to promote the idea for years.

Champion served as a local contact for Dan Manoyan, a retired Wisconsin
sportswriter and author of the 2007 book "Men of Granite," on which
the movie will be based.

Director Dwayne Johnson-Cochran and other crew gathered in Granite
City recently to scout possible filming locations, although most
scenes will be shot in the Cleveland area.

"Frankly, many of the old storefronts (in downtown Granite City)
have been torn down," said producer Valerie McCaffrey, 60, speaking
by phone from Los Angeles. She also is a casting director, who has
worked on dozens of movies, including "American History X," "Babe,"
"Hard Candy" and "Dark City."

"Men of Granite" will be produced by the independent company Outpost
Media and Valerie McCaffrey Productions. Filming is expected to last
five weeks.

"From what I've heard, we're going to get the cameras rolling in
early August," said Manoyan, 64, of Kenosha, Wis.

Seven of 10 players on the Warriors basketball team were sons of
Armenian, Yugoslavian, Macedonian and Hungarian immigrants who moved
to Granite City in the early 1900s to work in steel mills. They lived
in a neighborhood known as "Lincoln Place." Commonwealth Steel Co.

provided materials to build a community center, where the boys played

"All successful sports movies have an underdog, and these guys were
the ultimate underdogs," said Manoyan, who spent his last 20 years of
sportswriting at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "They weren't accepted
in their own hometown. They were poor as hell. They couldn't even
afford shoes to play basketball in the gym of their community center."

The boys "rented" tennis shoes by doing chores for Sophia Prather, a
former teacher hired to manage the center. She fought against bigotry
while teaching English and other skills to the Eastern Europeans.

Prather will be played in the movie by MacLaine, 81, whose many awards
include a Best Actress Oscar for the 1983 movie "Terms of Endearment."

"Sophia Prather was called the 'Mother of Lincoln Place,'" said
Champion, a retired P.E. and health teacher and basketball and
football referee.

The championship team's 6-foot-3 captain was Hungarian Andy Phillip, a
starter since sophomore year. He helped persuade Coach Byron Bozarth to
give his immigrant friends a chance. After graduation, Phillip went on
to play basketball at the University of Illinois, serve in World War II
and spend 11 years with the NBA, most notably with the Boston Celtics.

"(At U of I) they were called the 'Whiz Kids,'" Manoyan said. "They
were arguably the greatest basketball team in the history of Illinois."

Bozarth will be played in the movie by William Hurt, 65, who won a
Best Actor Oscar for the 1985 movie "Kiss of the Spider Woman."

Champion was 8 years old when GCHS won the state tournament. Thousands
of Granite City residents celebrated by forming a parade and marching
to Lincoln Place.

"Back in those days, you didn't cross the tracks after 9 o'clock,"
Champion said. "But after the championship, it eased up the stereotypes
and brought everybody together."

All the team's coaches and all but three players (John Markarian,
Andy Hagopian and Everett Daniels) are deceased.

Manoyan sold an estimated 1,500 copies of "Men of Granite." He had
self-published it so he could maintain full rights.

"I realized from the start that it had real movie potential, and that
was my goal," he said, calling the story "better than 'Hoosiers,'"
referring to the 1986 classic high school basketball movie with
Gene Hackman.

Manoyan tried to drum up interest in Hollywood without much luck
before finding McCaffrey's name online. She had served as casting
director for the 2012 movie "Lost and Found in Armenia." McCaffrey
grew up in a large Armenian family whose history is similar to that
of the Lincoln Place immigrants.

"My grandparents didn't speak any English (when they came to the
United States), and my parents had to forge their own way," she said.

McCaffrey took note that one of the Granite City basketball players
went into dry cleaning, the same business that helped her Armenian
uncle become a millionaire.

She also admired the way Prather lent a hand to the Eastern Europeans
and thought her example could help in today's fight against racism.

"Sophia Prather saw the future," McCaffrey said. "She said, 'We're
not going to shun these people. We're going to educate them. We're
going to assimilate them.'"

McCaffrey told Manoyan that she liked his book but needed at least
a rough script to pitch a movie to investors, cast and crew. Manoyan
recruited Granite City resident Armand Kachigian, a foot doctor and
aspiring screenwriter willing to work on consignment. He had won
$500,000 on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

"Armand really did a good job," Manoyan said. "And to this day,
his script is serving as an outline for 'Men of Granite.'"

Actors hired to play the basketball players include Rafi Gavron,
26, a Brit known for his work in "Breaking and Entering," "Nick and
Norah's Infinite Playlist" and "Snitch."

The team now is doing prep work with a coach in California, learning
the 1940s-era game and building chemistry.

"They played basketball differently back then," McCaffrey said. "The
key was different. The way that they shot was different. The basketball
was heavier, so the boys had to use two hands."

Excerpt from 'Men of Granite' book cover

"By (Andy) Phillip's senior year, all five starters -- the Hungarian,
two Armenians, a Yugoslav and a Mascedonian -- were products of
Lincoln Place.

"They were an unorthodox and superstitious lot, running plays in
Armenian to confuse opponents among other things, but their steely
resolve and dedication to teamwork made them champions.

"They became the first team in Illinois high school history to suffer
a tournament loss and emerge as the state champions.

"To do that, the Warriors overcame deficits after three quarters in
their quarter-final, semi-final and championship encounters.

"Their hard-knocks background prepared them well to be the
quintessential comeback kids of high school sports. Basketball was
only a game for the Men of Granite, but they played it well."



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#2 Yervant1


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Posted 09 July 2015 - 08:59 AM


Belleville News-Democrat, IL
July 8 2015

By David Wilhelm


John Markarian remembers the red-carpet treatment he and his Granite
City Warriors teammates received from town residents upon returning
from Champaign after winning the state basketball championship in 1940.

"It was like a parade," said Markarian, 92, one of three players from
the team who are still alive. "You looked up and down and they were all
out there in the streets. We were on the bus coming in and you could
see all the way from the high school down to Lincoln Place, across
the tracks where we were dropped off. It was about a 10-block area."

The Warriors were coached by Byron Bozarth and became known as
"Men of Steel." They defeated Streator 45-31 in the first round,
then overcame Dundee 35-30 in the quarterfinals. They rallied for
a 41-38 victory over Moline in the semifinals, then came back again
and posted a 24-22 win over Herrin in the championship game.

The tournament was held at venerable Huff Gymnasium, and the attendance
for the championship game was 7,052. Granite City, which finished 29-5,
was led by Andy Phillip's 53 points, including 15 in the low-scoring
title game. George Gages and Andy Hagopian tied for seventh with 30
points in the tournament, while Evon Parsaghian was eighth with 26.

Phillip and Gages were named to the all-tournament team.

Markarian and six of his teammates were of different nationalities,
and all of them lived in Lincoln Place. Their families had traveled
overseas to the United States in search of work, and wound up in
Granite City where jobs were abundant.

Markarian still lives in Granite City, and his boyhood home at 1628
Olive Street remains. Markarian has not been inside the home since
he left in 1953.

Markarian marvels about how the Warriors came together in the 1939-40

"Seven of the players were ethnics," Markarian said. "We lived across
the tracks and we had a gymnasium and community center. That's all
we could entertain ourselves with was playing basketball. I'm Armenian.

We had four Armenians on the team, we had one Hungarian, one Bulgarian
and one Yugo. That's seven of them. We had a variety of nationalities
living down in Lincoln Place, across the tracks where the factories
are, the foundries."

Markarian and Hagopian are Armenian.

Hagopian, 92, who also still lives in Granite City, was able to
play only a few minutes in the championship game. He did so despite
suffering a separated left shoulder while diving for a loose ball in
the semifinals against Moline.

"I couldn't play much," said Hagopian, adding that he wasn't even
taken to a doctor before the championship game. "There was nothing I
could do except root (from the bench). Coach Bozarth inserted me at
the start of the game as a courtesy, but he took me out right away.

But we had Andy Phillip. As long as we had Andy, nobody was going to
beat us."

Markarian can chuckle about it now, but he said a mental lapse could
have come back to haunt the Warriors in the waning moments of the
championship game.

Granite City led 24-22 when Bozarth told Markarian to enter the game.

"There were 10 or 12 seconds to go and the coach says, 'Markarian,
go in there and you tell the guys to do this and this and this,'"
Markarian said. "Well, when it was time for me to go in, I went
straight to the guys instead of to the desk to let them know who I
am and who I was replacing.

"The message was: 'When you guys come down to the middle of the floor,
take that basketball and throw it way up in the air,' because the
gymnasium was high. That's what I did. That was the only thing on
my mind.

"(Officials) called a technical foul on me. (Herrin's) best player
took the free throw, but he missed and I felt good. We won 24-22. So
when I talk about it now, I tell people, 'I just wanted to make the
game a little bit more exciting.'"

Markarian described Bozarth as "kind of a quiet guy."

"It was mostly the team, really," Markarian said of the Warriors'
resolve to win the state championship. "The assistant coach, Leonard
Davis, helped out and he had a lot of drive, too."

Hagopian said winning the title "was a great thing that everybody
should experience."

"We were lucky; you have to have a little bit of luck," Hagopian said.

"But as long as we had Andy, we were in the game. We were the underdogs
in all four games. Coach Bozarth didn't do much substituting. The
five of us played the whole way until I got hurt."

The other member of the team still living is Everett Daniels, who
resides in Indiana.


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