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Play Their Hearts Out

A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


Winner of the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sportswriting
Winner of the Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Youth Sports
Eight years of unfettered access and a keen sense of a story’s deepest truths allow Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist George Dohrmann to take readers inside the machine that produces America’s basketball stars. Play Their Hearts Out reveals a cutthroat world where boys as young as eight or nine are subjected to a dizzying torrent of scrutiny and exploitation. At the book’s heart are the personal stories of two compelling figures: Joe Keller, an ambitious coach with a master plan to find and promote “the next LeBron,” and Demetrius Walker, a fatherless latchkey kid who falls under Keller’s sway and struggles to live up to unrealistic expectations. Complete with a new “where-are-they-now” Epilogue by the author, this thoroughly compelling narrative exposes the gritty reality that lies beneath so many dreams of fame and glory.
Look for the exclusive conversation between George Dohrmann and bestselling author Seth Davis in the back of the book.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jul 26, 2010 – Dohrmann, a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for Sports Illustrated, spent eight years chronicling the struggles and triumphs of a select group of California youths who chased their dream in his wonderful and immaculately reported first book. Dohrmann largely focuses his work on Demetrius Walker, the hoops phenom who seems destined for stardom at a young age, his travel team from California, and the club's complex and bombastic coach, Joe Keller. Dohrmann began reporting on the book back in 2000, when Walker and many of his teammates were only 10 years old, and followed them through to their high school graduation. Along the way, he shows the brutal nature of "grassroots" basketball, in which coaches can view their players as "investments," the power of sneaker companies in youth basketball, and the cutthroat antics of collegiate recruiting. But this is equally a story about relationships and the sad deterioration of many of them, whether it be among teammates, parents and son, or coach and player. It's a brilliant and heart-wrenching journey, and a cautionary tale to any basketball player who thinks the path to the NBA is a slam dunk.

Customer Reviews

Must Read For Club/AAU Parents

Any parent considering or currently involved in Club/AAU basketball must read this book. Although all coaches and programs are not like the ones described in this book, it opens your eyes to some very sad truths that take place at the elite level.

The review

Was really good book that brought light to an underground money maker I hope this guy writes a book about the players after they finish college. Awesome book.

Play their hearts out

Well written,quick read,poignant....makes you want to continue following how their lives ( Demetrius,Roberto,Justin,Aaron,etc..) are turning out.

Play Their Hearts Out
View In iTunes
  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Basketball
  • Published: Oct 05, 2010
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 448 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings

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