David Henrie (Wizards Of Waverly Place) is negotiating to join the cast of the basketball film Men Of Granite, joining Shirley MacLaine in the film based on a true story about a bunch of poor immigrant kids — Armenian, Macedonian, Yugoslavian and Hungarian — who triumph over small-town bigotry to win the 1940 state basketball championship. The film, which is currently completing financing, will shoot in Granite City, IL, a steel town across from St. Louis not far from the Mississippi River. I grew up there and went to school with the sons and daughters of the original basketball team, and in that city, the story is legendary; it did, in fact, change perceptions and undermine bigotry.

Henrie steps into the role of Evon Parseghian, one of the basketball players who is very poor, movie-star handsome and a helluva flirt. He sets his sights on a girl from the good side of the tracks (much to her father’s chagrin). William Hurt has expressed interest in playing the basketball coach.

MacLaine will play Sofia Prather, who mentors and encourages the boys to reach beyond their local run-down gymnasium and try out for the basketball team, all the while fighting prejudice in the town. Henrie, known for How I Met Your Mother and a star of the upcoming Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, is repped by ICM Partners and Untitled Entertainment.

The indie film, which will be directed by Dwayne Johnson-Cochran, is from a script by Granite City native Armand Kachigian adapted from the book of the same name by former Milwaukee Sentinel sportswriter Dan Manoyan. Valerie McCaffrey is producing. McCaffrey, whose real surname is Boolootian, is bringing one of the rare films to the big screen to tell a story concerning Slavic Americans and Eastern Europeans. It’s about time.