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Outside Shot: Big Dreams, Hard Times, and One County's Quest for Basketball Greatness Hardcover – January 15, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Keith O'Brien's absorbing narrative about a high school basketball team in rural Kentucky is so much more than a sports book: It's a portrait of a small town in the throes of change, and a story of redemption for a group of young men struggling to prove themselves.” —Parade

“If you have ever wanted a look into the broken but still beating heart of high school sports, into a world where a young man’s future—and a town's slipping pride--can hang on an in-bounds pass or one more foul, then Keith O’Brien has a book for you.” —Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of All Over But the Shoutin'

“What Friday Night Lights was to high school football in Texas, Outside Shot is to basketball in Kentucky…. Outside Shot transcends sports. This is a story about our times.” —Ken Armstrong, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and coauthor of Scoreboard, Baby

“O'Brien paints the bluegrassed landscape and its rugged chronology with an artist's eye for detail… Studded with real-time dialogue and exhilarating courtside action, O'Brien presents the Cardinals of Scott County High School as a meritorious collective bravely facing tough school rivalries, racial bias, peer pressures and the raw agony of a regional tournament defeat. A slam-dunk for readers energized by fast-paced, play-by-play sports stories.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A beautiful story about families, community, and the yearnings of young people. Like the Scott County High School Cardinals, this book has a lot of heart—and it’s a winner!” —Jeffrey Zaslow, coauthor of The Last Lecture

“O’Brien’s sharp, intense reporting peers inside the souls of Cardinals nation while illuminating basketball’s value to the community and its participants.” —Publishers Weekly

“O'Brien paints the bluegrassed landscape and its rugged chronology with an artist's eye for detail… A slam-dunk for readers energized by fast-paced, play-by-play sports stories.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Where Blue Chips meet Blue Grass.” —Dan Shaughnessy, author of Senior Year

“A lyrical, fast-paced account of a season to treasure along with a team roster as touching as it is unforgettable.” —Madeleine Blais, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle

“O’Brien watched these boys and their fine coach with keen and compassionate eyes, and by the middle of the book, my gut was tensed up and I was thinking, ‘Man, I hope these kids win.’” —James E. Tobin, author of Ernie Pyle's War, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

“A wonderful book that should be required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in high school sports.” —Bill Reynolds, author of Fall River Dreams

“Keith O'Brien writes with a critical eye on larger social issues but is at his best in depicting with sympathy and understanding the teenage boys who would be our heroes.” —James S. Hirsch, author of Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend

“Inspiring. A story of young men striving for redemption and relying on each other, not only to prove all of the naysayers wrong, but to prove to themselves that they can be victorious.” —Etan Thomas, NBA player, poet, and author of Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge

Outside Shot is for more than just sports fans—this is an inspiring story of determination, a community desperate for heroes, and the boys who would give anything to fill that role. Absolutely riveting.” —Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus

“Keith O'Brien takes us inside the world of Kentucky high school basketball--the joy, devotion, pressure, and obsession of a coach and his players.” —David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of When Pride Still Mattered 

About the Author

KEITH O'BRIEN has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. In 2009 he won the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. He lives in New Orleans. Outside Shot is his first book.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; Reprint edition (January 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250000335
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250000330
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #829,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Keith O'Brien is a former reporter for the Boston Globe and now a New Orleans-based writer. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Boston Globe Magazine, Boston Magazine, Runner's World, and the Dallas Morning News. And he has also contributed to several National Public Radio shows, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here & Now, Weekend America, and Only a Game.

O'Brien often tells his wife that he is not a word guy, but evidence suggests otherwise. In 2009, he won the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for a Boston Globe story that he and a colleague wrote about the deaths of two girls in a fast-moving fire. O'Brien has written about the big. His coverage of Hurricane Katrina kept him in New Orleans off and on for a year. And he also loves to write about the small, like his award-winning story about a homeless man whose death went almost unnoticed.

O'Brien graduated from Northwestern University in 1995 with a degree in history.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D Hayes on January 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An incredibly in depth narrative. O'Brien did his research and took full advantage of his amazing access to these "[l]ittle, miniathelete gods" and the people around them. Like other reviewers I thoroughly enjoyed the way he seamlessly tied in the politics and socioeconomics of high school/college sports and Kentucky itself.

I readily agree that one need not be a fan of basketball to enjoy this book. However, for those of us who are, I was fascinated to get a sense as to where all these "blue chip" prospects we see on ESPN come from.

After sailing through the book cover to cover in 2 days (also like another reviewer), I was struck by how concise the story was. O'Brien wastes few words and boiled down mountains of research and hours and hours of interviews and observation into a tight 300 pages that I banged through. The biggest disappointment is that Outside Shot is O'Brien's first book, so once you finish it you have to wait for his next one.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've always enjoyed books about sports, especially basketball. O'Brien spent a year with this small town Kentucky team. Unlike many "embedded" reporters, he didn't just focus on the team. He was very aware of the small town pressures and the statewide interest in this team.

There was a lot going on that year. Three new players moved into the school district, claiming they weren't violating rules about moving to get into a better sports program. Although each had good reasons to move, such as a parent's job, they were viewed with suspicion.

The town itself was undergoing change. Toyota had transformed the place from a farming community several years before. Now the town faced financial pressure, unemployment and even racism.

O'Brien writes about each of the four star players as well as the coach. He writes well and the pace is good. In some ways, this team is like so many other high school teams; even the players blend together. There's the now familiar story of players who struggle with school and don't value education. Some come from challenging backgrounds. Their coach tells them they have to win to show the rest of Kentucky they "own" the stage. And they do take the game to a pretty high level.

Ultimately I found this book very good and very frustrating. The team has an outside shot at a championship and the boys have an outside shot at future success. Sadly, three of the four run into problems when they try to get placed on good Division 1 teams. Even when they get drafted, gaining an opportunity for an education, something goes wrong or they just miss being home.

One player goes to an elite prep school on scholarship and ends up at University of Cincinnati. When I googled his name he was still there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Redfairway on January 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Outside Shot is a true narrative of a season of high school basketball in Scott County, Kentucky. It is a mesmerizing book that I could not put down. When I finished I had to read the author's notes to see how he could possibly know so much detail about the coach, the players and their families. The notes describe the author's unprecedented access to the practice sessions, team meetings and even doctor's appointments for the players. On some days the author is present in a player's home with his family from the time the player wakes up and has breakfast until the game ends that night. The author has also taped some of the opposing coaches pre-game and halftime comments to his players as a contrast to the coach he is following.

The author successfully captures all of the small town pressure placed on the coaches, players and their families. But the book is much more that a sports story. Woven throughout the basketball story line is the socio-economic history of Scott County, Kentucky and the family histories and dynamics of many of the players and coaches.
The author has obviously put his heart and soul into this book and it shows. It is a wonderful, fascinating read. Keith O'Brian, when do we get your 2nd book?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joel Holtz VINE VOICE on January 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Keith O' Brien has written a captivating and at times, gut wrenching story of the Cardinals of Scott County, Kentucky and their quest for a State championship. But the book quickly expands to the troubles of the small town where they play..including drinking, academics, drugs, politics, and economics.

Chapter 3, COAL DUST AND DREAMS, about Coach Billy Hicks and how he got into coaching, is for me easily the best in the book.

Each of the teams 4 stars are featured throughout OUTSIDE SHOT.. Dakotah Euton, who grows up with a borderline abusive Dad. Will Schu, who grows up without a father..Ge'Lawn Guyn, whose Dad is a former drug dealer, and Chad Jackson, whose Dad ends up dead at age 39.

A great read not just for basketball fans, but for anybody who wants to read more about how to persevere through adversity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Graham F. Johns III on January 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Outside Shot is outstanding! I will admit, however, that I am biased. I met the author, Keith O'Brien, after the Clark County-Scott County game on January 31, 2010. A week later, we talked for an hour, so I have been anxiously awaiting its release. The story of the 2009-10 Scott County basketball season weaves throughout the book. But it's about so much more than basketball. From farming in Scott County to coal mining in Harlan County, from the arrival of Toyota to high unemployment, from the wet-dry vote in Georgetown to drug dealing in Lexington, and from transfers and redshirts to watching movies in class, O'Brien captures the good and bad of Kentucky. An unbelievable amount of research went into this book. O'Brien interviewed hundreds of people and read countless newspaper and other articles. I highly recommend Outside Shot to anyone remotely interested in basketball.
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