on January 23, 2013
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.
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.
Like so many other books about high school sports, this one ends with disillusionment. It's not the boys' fault; their classes are less than stimulating. Teachers have begun to show movies to hold the kids' attention. The team may win championships but they're not exposed to other avenues of success... or even encouraged to consider that alternative forms success might take.
on January 25, 2013
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?
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.
on January 22, 2013
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.
on June 6, 2013
I live in the town described in this book. I have to say it's pretty accurate. It captures the sentiment around town and the team during a difficult season full of transfers to the team, etc. This is very well written, definitely worthy of being described as the Friday Night Lights of high school basketball.
on October 22, 2015
as famed basketball announcer Marv Albert would say, YES!!!!! I found this book hard to put down. This is
so much more than a basketball book. In reading the pages I could feel the author's deep engagement and involvement
with the coach, the players, the families, and the culture of the town. Keith O' Brien really takes the time to look deeply at
all of the aforementioned. He literally takes the reader into the homes of the players and coach, through the paths of their
parents, grandparents and the Kentucky that their ancestors knew. His background not only of families but of the landscape
and economic history of Scott County painted a clear picture of the community, it's people and the importance of high school
on February 14, 2013
The author does an excellent job of letting the reader see the inside of a high level high school basketball program. Let's the reader decide whether the transfers which lead to this team's success are a positive or negative aspect to the current high scholol basketball scene.
on January 20, 2013
Keith O'Brien did an awesome job researching this book. His incite into this high school basketball team in Georgetown, Ky is more than just a sports story. Its a gut wrenching story about life in a small town. It could be about any town in the US encompassing much more than sports. Its a true account about the good, the bad and the ugly and the hopes and the dreams surrounding high school sports. Gotta read this one even if you aren't from Kentucky.
Keith O'Brien has written a fascinating book on how a town, a school, and a team has gone thru sadness, anger, and some redemption in their high school basketball team. "Outside Shot" is about how a high school basketball team, the Scott County Cardinals went thru a few years of losing basketball seasons and the town that followed the team was wrapped up in the team winning and when the team didn't win, the town showed an ugly side. I live in Texas where football is a religion and there are many, many small towns and big cities where the community follows passionately their local high school sports. In Kentucky, it's basketball and Scott County High School is the focus point on the towns passion for sports. This is a sad reflection on where a reputation for excellence is what makes a town feel proud. The book focus is on the 2010 basketball season for Scott County High School and its coach who just a few years before took the team to the state championship and won the state title. This is a blessing and a curse for the coach, the team, and the town since afterwards the town expected their basketball team to win state every year. When that doesn't happen, the town, community, and others blame the coach harshly, tell the players they are losers, and blame everything and everyone.
In 2010 the team experienced some redemption when they had a winning season, some heartbreak losses, and some lessons in life. I find it sad that the "religion of sports" is a guidepost for a town who cares about winning more than they care about the athletes. This book goes thru all the highs and lows, the stupidity of racism, the wisdom of others, the athletes who stand tough, and the coach who is all things to his athletes. This is a good book that shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of high school sports in small town America.