Interviews

Published on July 26th, 2020 | by Percy Crawford

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Pt. 2: Shawn “OG” McCray Explains How Central High Became the Subject of YouTube Docuseries, “Best Shot!”

LeBron James served as the executive producer while Duke great Jay Williams played an intricate role in the docuseries featuring Newark High School.

You hear the phrase, “Do you what you gotta do,” often. It’s overused sometimes. And in the case of, Shawn McCray, it was unnecessary. McCray was a standout basketball player. He also began coaching at the young age of 16. Taking kids not much younger than him to play in summer leagues. While keeping pace with the demanding schedule of playing hoops and coaching it, he earned himself a scholarship. In the midst of playing college ball and graduating college, the streets got a hold to, McCray. Hoops star equipped with a college degree, the moniker, “Do what you gotta do,” did not fit McCray, but it also didn’t stop him from exploring the street life of selling drugs. Eventually, McCray… also known as, “OG,” understood his hypocritical ways were counterproductive to the kids he was coaching. He spearheaded one of the most successful summer leagues on the east coast, Zoo Crew Basketball Program and left the streets behind. Several current and former NBA players competed in Zoo Crew Tournaments!

During this final installment of this two-part interview, McCray talks us through the process of Central High School being selected for SpringHill Entertainment’s (LeBron James production company) “Best Shot,” docuseries.

So, you guys couldn’t do the tournament for the 22nd consecutive year because of the virus and not just being denied a permit, right?

Shawn McCray: Yeah… because of the virus. The politics here in Newark, that’s a whole different story. We could talk for days about that. It’s crazy. I actually ran for councilman in 2014 and 2018. I was right there. Almost winning and I have no political experience, but I have strong community ties and I have a very good reputation here in the city of Newark.

LeBron James Production company, SpringHill Entertainment chose you and your school to be featured on a YouTube docuseries, “Best Shot.” How did you receive the news that Central High School would be featured?

Shawn McCray: It’s funny, 2017… around this time of year, I had the clothing store. July 3rd is 3-years that it’s been open. Some lady called me in late June because my store wasn’t open yet, I was still working on it. And she asked if she could come talk to me about a documentary. She had an Australian accent. I’m from the streets, somebody just calling me out the blue about a documentary, I’m like, “What is this documentary about?” She said, “I can come to you and talk to you and explain what’s going on.” She came to the store. An Australian Caucasian woman in the middle of Newark. You’re not from Newark, but it’s a rough area. I was like, “Wow, this lady came all the way to where I was.” We spoke. She asked me what type of team I had coming back. I gave her some information on my team. She asked, “Do I think we’re going to be good? What kind of players do I have?” I had some kids with issues that they might want to know about. We talked and at the end she said, “My producers are going to reach out to you.”

Did it feel real then?

Shawn McCray: I was like, “Producers? What do you mean? What’s going on? How did you get my name?” She asked me did I know this guy from the Star Ledger. I did because he had done an article on me. They reached out to him and asked him if he knew any coaches in Newark that had ties to the community and has a funny background. He probably told them about me or sent them the story or whatever the case may be. And they saw that I was in the streets, turned my life around and working with kids now. She said the producers would reach out to me, and maybe 2-weeks later, I got a call. They asked if I had a laptop because they wanted me to set up Skype to talk to people that was in Cali. So, when they said California, I’m thinking, “This must be real.” When they said documentary, I’m thinking, low budget documentary. I’m not thinking LeBron James. I actually never knew LeBron James was a part of it until they actually started filming.

Did you know Jay Williams was going to be a part of it?

Shawn McCray: I didn’t know, Jay Will was a part of it either. They just said a former NBA player, so I didn’t know who it was. I spoke with the producers, I gave them my spill and they said, “Coach, we’ll get back to you in 2-weeks.” I said, “What do you mean? How did I do?” I’m an honest guy. I don’t try to portray something I’m not. If somebody asks me a question, I try to give them the best answer without sugarcoating anything or whatever. So, I thought I did pretty good with the interview. They said they would call me in a couple of weeks. I was wondering what was going on because I thought I was the only one being interviewed and they let me know that I wasn’t. They had a coach in Brooklyn and a coach in Philadelphia that they had been talking to as well. You know me, I’m thinking Newark is not as major as Brooklyn and Philadelphia, you know what I mean?

For sure.

Shawn McCray: So, I’m thinking, they are not going to pick me. Brooklyn, Philadelphia… Newark, ehhh, the nation really understands Brooklyn and Philadelphia. We don’t have a sports team here. We don’t have anything. I figured they would pick one of those schools and coaches. Long story short, they called me at the end of August. Right before school started and they said, “Coach, we’re going to do Central [High].” And I was like, “Are you guys serious?” And they were like, “Yeah, we’re going to do Central, it’s going to be an 8-part series, it’s going to be on YouTube.” I didn’t know what to say because, I’ve been running around this city and dealing with these kids for 37-years and with a name for 24-years. I’m thinking, wow, somebody is finally going to see my story. I didn’t know to what affect in terms of how they were going to do the documentary. It’s a public school, so they let me know that they had to reach out to the school and let them know what’s going on. But, as of now, it was going to be Central High School.

So, I was like, “Wow!” So, I was talking to one of the guys, because I run a program outside of the school. This program is for kids ages 5-13. I do that more in the fall, spring and the summer. The wintertime is more of my high school basketball season. They came to one of the practices and did a pre-filming of the little kids and things like that. It was one or two cameras. They said, “We’re going to come to tryouts.” I said, “You’re going to come to Central tryouts?” “Yes, how many tryouts do you do?” I said, “I do 2-days.” They came both days. When I saw the setup, I said, “Ah man, this stuff is real.” I learned that LeBron James was a part of it. The first day we started filming, they told me, Jay Will was going to come. He came after the tryouts. After everyone had made the team and everything. He started coming to practice after that. The kids didn’t really know who he was, they had to Google him. Then they were like, “Oh, he played at Duke, he was the number two pick.” So, the kids got excited. And that’s how it came about. They picked me and I was like, “Wow!” I didn’t know what to expect. Then we started doing different scenes and they were interviewing me, and I was like, “Ah man, this is going to be good.”

Can we expect a follow up?

Shawn McCray: They actually reached out to me a month or so ago and asked me, are there still any players that was on, “Best Shot,” that was still at Central? I said, “Yeah, one kid was a freshman and he’s going to be a senior now.” I was talking to the guy from SpringHill, which is LeBron’s film company, I forget the guy’s name, but I told him that they should do a follow-up on the kids that graduated. And he said, “Coach, that’s what we plan on doing.” I was like, Man, that’s great,” because everybody was asking me was there going to be a part two, and I used to tell them, “I don’t know.” But the response was great. They told me it had over 25 million views. I said, “Wow!” So, right now… I reached out to the director who directed the first one. We are Instagram friends. I told him that I received a call from SpringHill, and they asked me about a follow-up, did you get a call? He said, “They reached out to me too.” I asked him what they said, and he basically said, they asked him the same things they asked me. I was thinking that he didn’t want to confirm nothing in the DM that we were going back and forth on. He didn’t want to say yes or no. So, I’m thinking, yes because of what they were telling me. They want to follow the kids that graduated. And the ones… it was about four or five of them that were the focal point on, Best Shot,” and they are all graduated. Zyreke will be a freshman in college this year, Dian and Isaiah entering their junior year of college, and Quan Quan still haven’t gotten himself together. It would be nice to show people what they are doing now and what’s going on with everybody. So, hopefully it happens.

Keep up the great work out there. I know it’s not easy, but it’s necessary and very rewarding. Is there anything else you want to add before I let you go?

Shawn McCray: They find me on Instagram, zoocrew4life and Shawn McCray on Facebook. My page is open on both sites. Thank you!



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