It's a cliché: A black kid from the projects sleeps with his basketball and dreams of becoming an NBA star. Then he can buy a house for his momma and lead his family out of poverty in a fleet of Benzes and Bentleys. The dream came true for Sebastian Telfair of Coney Island, and Through the Fire filmmaker Jonathan Hock has an advantage in telling Telfair's rags-to-riches story: Hock trained his lens on the 5-foot-10 (!) hopeful as he entered his senior year of high school and captured casual bits and pieces of his daily activities and conversations. The edited footage yields a genuine buildup of Telfair's against-the-odds succession into the big-money, high-pressure world of professional basketball. (He's currently a point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers.)
Hock's footage starts in 2003, as 17-year-old Telfair enters his senior year at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. He's a court star with a cult following and has already been recruited by the University of Louisville college play being the approved step toward the NBA. Telfair is somewhat sincere, but NBA ambitions still dance like demons in his head. As the season progresses, Lincoln's team is unstoppable and NBA scouts become omnipresent, even at practices. We witness old white men pitching woo to the clean-cut and cute charmer. Telfair frequently flashes his million-dollar smile; he's gifted with a sunny disposition as well as a loving mother and passel of brothers/cousins, all of whom are riding on hope for his prospects.
Hock's most illustrative footage is of the dazzling, sophisticated action found on today's high-school courts; the most obscene shows the execution of 18-year-old Telfair's $12 million endorsement deal with Adidas (a corruptive amount of money for a kid to live up to). Both help to illustrate the rhyme and reason of early recruitment.