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    Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine

    by George Dohrmann

    Book Description

    Eight years of unfettered access, a keen sense of a story’s deepest truths, and a genuine compassion for his subject allow Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist George Dohrmann to take readers inside the machine that produces America’s basketball stars. Hoop dreams aren’t just for players. The fever that grips college basketball prospects hoping to strike big-time NBA gold afflicts coaches, parents, and sneaker executives as well. Every one of them has a stake in keeping America’s wildly dysfunctional, incredibly lucrative youth basketball machine up and running—no matter the consequences. In Play Their Hearts Out, George Dohrmann offers an up-close and unforgettable look inside the maw of that machine. He shares what he learned from his years spent embedded with a group of talented young recruits from Southern California as they traveled the country playing in elite Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) events. It’s a cutthroat world where boys as young as eight or nine are subjected to a dizzying torrent of scrutiny and exploitation. Coaches vie to have them on their teams. Sneaker companies ply them with free shoes and gear. “All-star camps” are glorified cattle auctions, providing make-or-break opportunities to secure the promise of an elusive college scholarship. At the book’s heart are the personal stories of two compelling figures: Joe Keller, an ambitious AAU coach with a master plan to find and promote “the next LeBron”—thereby paving his own path to power and riches; and Demetrius Walker, a fatherless latchkey kid who falls under Keller’s sway and struggles to live up to the unrealistic expectations his supposed benefactor has set for him. As their fortunes take shape and the pressure mounts—Demetrius finds himself profiled in Sports Illustrated at age fourteen, while Keller cultivates his business empire—Dohrmann weaves in the stories of numerous other parents, coaches, and players. Some of them see their prospects evaporate as a result of poor decisions and worse luck. Others learn how to thrive in a corrupt system by playing the right angles. Written with incomparable detail and insight, Play Their Hearts Out is a thoroughly unique narrative that reveals the inner workings of an American game, exposing the gritty reality that lies beneath so many dreams of fame and glory.

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    Average Rating (3.5)
    Review of Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann
    4.0 out of 5
    Really interesting
    This is a case of a solid journalist being in the right place at the right team. The book follows the multi-year path of a young, highly-touted (The next LaBron James) basketball player playing in a grassroots league. Catalogs the emergence of jr. high and high school recruiting by college and pro teams and even features a number of villains in the form of the coaches and other greedy adults lurking around the fringes of the sport and the boys and their families.
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    tsl73
    on April 18, 2011
    Review of Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann
    3.0 out of 5
    Fascinating.
    An interesting look into grassroots basketball in the US. An easy and quick read following one young boys journey through the system.
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    nfmlnk
    on April 15, 2011
    If you're writing a Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine essay and need some advice, post your George Dohrmann essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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