Manchild: The Schea Cotton Story

*** In 1995, Schea Cotton was the country's top-ranked high school basketball player. The hoop dreams were high and his vertical was higher. Cotton, whose publicity matched that of later stars, like LeBron James and Jason Kidd, was such an explosive athlete you couldn't help but wonder if he ate gunpowder before each game. At 15 and 16, he was packing arenas, signing autographs and appearing in Sports Illustrated features. Then the moment was gone. The NBA draft passed him by in 2000, as did his competitors, like Baron Davis, Paul Pierce and Tyson Chandler. How could a top prospect in his sport drop off the map so quickly? That's the cautionary tale spun by Manchild: The Schea Cotton Story, a brisk, troubling documentary that doesn't over-dribble. In less than 90 minutes, Manchild tells Cotton's story through interviews and archival footage of the 6-foot-6 player dominating the court. "He was LeBron James before LeBron James," says former Celtic Paul Pierce. The only way to stop him was off the court. The documentary doesn't shy away from detailing the media's perverse role in hyping kids at an early age and the NCAA's corruption, which derailed Cotton from playing Division I basketball. But Eric Herbert's directorial debut, which premiered at the L.A. Film Festival in 2016, and released on streaming services this summer, is more than a "what could have been" narrative. It's a rewarding reminder of how athletes who are considered "failures" can still rebound off the court. NR. ASHER LUBERTO. Amazon Prime, Google Play.