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THE LAST SHOT by Darcy Frey

THE LAST SHOT

City Streets, Basketball Dreams

By Darcy Frey

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-395-59770-6
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

 Expanding the Harper's piece that won a National Magazine Award, Frey deepens his devastating indictment of big-time college basketball's recruiting circus and the long shot at redemption it offers four talented New York City high school players. The flirtations of college coaches who promise TV exposure and a shot at the NBA might seem merely pathetic: One coach makes his play with inept card tricks; another signs a fawning letter to a recruit ``Health, Happine$$ and Hundred$.'' But for the young men Frey follows through their senior year at Abraham Lincoln High School, home is the projects of Coney Island, an end of the line literally, because it's a subway terminus, and metaphorically, because young black men seeking their fortunes have two options: drug-dealing or basketball. In a neighborhood where gang members rain beer bottles and taunts on players on the court and where turf wars lend an air of necessity to the style of basketball called ``run-and-gun,'' the father-figure pitches and broken promises of college coaches (many of whom have six-figure salaries and million- dollar endorsement deals with sneaker companies) are nothing less than abject. Harper's contributing editor Frey dishes the inside dope--the slave-market atmosphere of summer basketball camps, the corrupting influence of companies like Nike, the winks and nods with which coaches skirt the ``byzantine'' NCAA recruiting rules. And he does it without self-righteousness, simply letting coaches skewer themselves. Eventually the NCAA (which fares no better under Frey's blistering scrutiny) banned him from recruiting sessions. But what gives the book its powerful emotional punch is the bond between the players and the community of family, fans, and local coaches who support them--and between Frey and the kids. He captures--in lean, lyrical prose--the psychological drama and physical beauty of the game, and the joy it brings those who play it and see it played at its best. A heartbreaking, gritty piece of work.