The Last Shot Review
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More than 10 years ago, Darcy Frey covered this story about the lives of the basketball players at Abraham Lincoln High School. He focused on a couple of key players, Tchaka Omowale, Russell Thomas, and Corey Johnson. He talked to their families, to their teachers, and to their coach. He followed them in their daily routines and listened to them. He also reported on the way college basketball recruiting actually worked and affected their choices, recruiters who sometimes only conformed to the NCAA's rules very loosely. As a result, this conflicted system affected players in unpredictable ways. Some players set their hopes on the NBA, despite the fact that the odds were against them. Others just wanted to get college scholarships.

Why update the book? Well, now we can see where the players ended up, and the results are varied. One actually did make the NBA, but none of the others did and one is now dead. One player says that no one encouraged him in any academic subject the way he was encouraged to play ball. Certainly many players found less academic support than they did for their sport.

Hard to believe that after the publication of this book there was no clamor for reform. At the very least, when reporters are covering such systemic flaws, it seems hard to believe that the public can be caught short when recruiting abuses arise in other sports, like the scandal now brewing at the University of Colorado. You want to do nothing when an abuse is laid at your feet? Fine, but don't act the innocent when scandal breaks. The problem has been there for a long time; the public's will to change it hasn't.

You could read the book as a case study in how the business of basketball is conducted today. And if you're a reformer looking for a cause, you could find one here. However the true value of the book is the look it gives us into the lives of the players. It's a tribute to the young men who played the game and struggled with life-changing decisions in an unforgiving setting. There's plenty of inequity to go around, and plenty of changes that need to be made, but Frey's best accomplishment here is the way he's captured the players and allowed them to speak for themselves. It's worthwhile and engrossing reading.

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