She had really good chemistry with Omar [Epps], but hadn’t acted before. So these two were on these parallel tracks, really in my mind it was between these two. Lathan: I had people in my life who were like, “Stop. There was a faction that really, really wanted somebody who was a great basketball player and then I believe myself and Mike De Luca argued pretty strenuously for somebody who was a great actor, who could get across the emotionality of the love story because we thought that’s where the heart of the movie resided.
I just wanted to be creative about it and find who embodied this character. I heard that she had gotten one of the basketball players an acting coach.
So I was like, “Then you need to do the same thing for me.” Prince-Bythewood: There was a ball player named Niesha Butler, who played at Georgia Tech, and also wanted to be an actress and she auditioned. Because it seemed like every time I would get to a certain level, I would think I would get the call and then two days later it’d be, “Oh, well they’re bringing in another basketball player.” Stern: There was a pretty strenuous, I would say, debate about who should play Monica.
Sanaa Lathan, actress (Monica Wright): The script was great. How people identify with the movie, I identified with the script and their story.
I am a romantic and I’m a driven woman and I was like, “Oh wow, I’ve never really seen anything like this on the screen.” It was worth fighting for.
A woman that wasn’t delicate, but rather, could hold her own on the court and trash talk with the best.