It’s long been said that Hollywood mimics real life.
In fact, some of the best movies have been based on actual people, events and experiences. With that being said, Keenan Wetzel, a walk-on at Michigan State, didn’t intend for The Cager, his short film project, to be an autobiographical piece on anyone in particular.
But don’t tell that to former Spartans forward Delvon Roe—because he’s the guy cast in the lead role of Wesley Ray, a one-time superstar whose basketball career was unfortunately cut short by injury.
“I wondered—did Keenan just follow me and write a script about my life?” said Roe, who retired from college athletics after three years. Despite valiant efforts, microfractures and a pair of bad knees just wouldn’t allow the former 5-star recruit to go on any longer. “The character of Wesley Ray felt so close to me, so real.”
Although not able to play, Roe remained close to the program, allowing him to cross paths with Wetzel in the summer of 2012. As it turned out, Wetzel’s longtime love of filmmaking just so happened to spark Roe’s interest. At that time, he was taking theatre classes—which he says were required for him to graduate—and entertaining the idea of becoming a full-fledged actor.
So, it would only make sense that their first encounter was similar to something pulled from a Hollywood script.
“It was weird,” Roe said, laughing. “You know, Keenan wasn’t recruited here. It all started when Brandon Wood transferred from Valpo. We were roommates for that summer, and Keenan [who transferred from Valpo] stayed with us for a couple of days. From then on out, Keenan and I started to build a relationship off the court—acting and basketball.”
Due to a deep roster, Wetzel didn’t clock many minutes. However, he was quite productive on road trips, developing what transformed into a story with which Roe wanted to be involved.
“He wrote a short film on the [team] bus, and he told me that he had something in mind for me for a character,” said Roe (IMDB), who is now certified by the Screen Actors Guild. “I read it around November  and loved it.”
Who is Wesley Ray?
As explained by Wetzel, the goal of a short film is to focus on specific details while omitting just enough to capture the audience’s curiosity. Without giving too much away, Wetzel portrayed Ray as a down-and-out former hoops star whose thirst for glory consumes his life and puts his family, a girlfriend and young child, in jeopardy.
A proud man of the 1950s and '60s, Ray failed to plan ahead
“I can relate to a lot about him—life after basketball, having to support his daughter. There are so many things we share in common,” Roe said. “I think about myself a little bit, some circumstances. Wesley is still trying to find himself outside of basketball. He’s been through so much in his life, and he doesn’t care about a job. He’s thinking about what could have been—what didn’t come to fruition. He’s very much into himself.”
Why Wesley Ray?
The central message of the film is to encourage people to do the opposite of Ray and prepare for life's sudden changes. Wetzel’s intent is to make an impression on everyone—not just athletes who think they’re destined for the pros. Sure, it’s a film made by a basketball player, starring a basketball player. But be careful to tab it as a sports-inspired tale.
"It’s a basketball movie that has nothing to do with basketball,” Roe said. "[Wesley] needs to get over basketball and support his family. Even though I’m not out looking for a job and doing the same thing as him, I once found myself saying ‘Dang it’s really is over—I’m not going to be able to play anymore. What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’ I felt like that for a couple of days, weeks. Wesley’s been feeling like that for years after basketball.”
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.