KDL Recommends > KDL Top Ten > 3/29/2013 Basketball Nonfiction

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Outside Shot: Big Dreams, Hard Times, and One County's Quest for Basketball Greatness

Outside Shot: Big Dreams, Hard Times, and One County's Quest for Basketball Greatness

ISBN: 1250000335

Title: Outside Shot: Big Dreams, Hard Times, and One County's Quest for Basketball Greatness

Author: Keith O'Brien

KDL Description:


A first book by a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist traces the experiences of the coach and four top seniors from the once-prestigious Scott County High School basketball team in Central Kentucky, documenting their effort to recover from a painful slump related to the economy, racial and religious tensions and other community divides.

Amazon Description:

“A reporting tour de force and an utterly gripping account… Outside Shot unmistakably triumphs, with the reader rooting hard for the Cardinals—and delighted that O’Brien has brought his considerable skills to telling their story.”  —Wayne Coffey, New York Times Book Review


The Cardinals of Scott County High School were beloved once—-and with good reason. For years, the boys and their legendary coach gave fans in central Kentucky, deep in the heart of basketball country, just what they wanted: state titles, national rankings, and countless trips to Kentucky’s one-of-a-kind state tournament, where winning and losing can change a young man’s life.

But in 2009, with the economy sputtering, anger rising, and Scott County mired in a two-year drought, fans had begun to lose faith in the boys. They weren’t the heroes of Scott County anymore; they were “mini-athlete gods,” haunted by dreams, burdened by expectations, and desperate to escape through the only means they knew: basketball.

In Outside Shot, Keith O’Brien takes us on an epic journey, from the bluegrass hills and broken homes of rural America, to inner-city Lexington, to Kentucky’s most hallowed hall: Rupp Arena, where high school tournament games are known to draw twenty-thousand people, and where, for the players and their fans, it feels like anything is possible.

The narrative follows four of the team’s top seniors and their coach as they struggle to redeem themselves in the face of impossible odds: once-loyal fans now turned against them, parents who demand athletic greatness, and scouts who weigh their every move. It delves deep inside the lives of the boys, their families, and their community—-divided along lines of race, politics, religion, and sports. And it chronicles not only the high-stakes world of Kentucky basketball, but the battle for the soul of small-town America.

A story of inspiration and poignancy, filled with moments of drama on and off the court, Outside Shot shows that if it’s hard to win basketball games, it can be even harder to win at life itself.