A reporter digs deep into a Kentucky high school’s pivotal basketball season. Fully immersing himself in the experience, O’Brien relocated his family to Scott County, Ky., for eight months in the winter of 2009, chronicling the highs and lows of a group of young athletic hopefuls.
His firsthand reportage follows a wintry season for the Scott County Cardinals, and through interviews, emotive photographs and recorded dialogue, he provides a bird’s-eye perspective inside the games and practices and the players and their family lives. O’Brien paints the bluegrassed landscape and its rugged chronology with an artist’s eye for detail.
He focuses on four Scott County senior players, all from challenging backgrounds, all aggressively and passionately shepherded by longtime coach Billy Hicks, who steered “his boys” toward a hopeful victory amid a season fraught with tension stemming from two of his key players, Dakotah Euton, a restless “bearded man-child,” and Chad Jackson, a fatherless quiet storm, who both transferred in from other districts.
O’Brien also traces the lives of Ge’Lawn Guyn, the second-ranked player in the state stunted by bad knees and a troubled childhood, and Will Schu, benched with a broken hand and a broken spirit after sabotaging himself on the court. Studded with real-time dialogue and exhilarating courtside action, O’Brien presents the Cardinals of Scott County High School as a meritorious collective bravely facing tough school rivalries, racial bias, peer pressures and the raw agony of a regional tournament defeat.
A slam-dunk for readers energized by fast-paced, play-by-play sports stories.