A kid who’s got the moves needs the smarts to go with them.
Derrick may be just 15 and only entering high school, but Division I and even NBA dreams are not unrealistic—but first he has to make the starting squad at Marion East, the mostly black high school in his inner-city Indianapolis neighborhood. This means impressing the coach that his uncle blames for scotching his own NBA dreams years earlier. Readers won’t be as surprised as Derrick is when he is not automatically named to the starting five or when the coach insists that he stop relying on his dunk and practice shooting from a distance—and start learning how to be part of a team. Resentful, Derrick considers transferring to snooty Hamilton Academy, where he’s being energetically recruited and where his underemployed father has been promised a full-time custodian job. Waltman’s series opener (first of a planned four) features plenty of basketball action fueled by hoops slang that will set basketball-mad readers right onto the court. Derrick’s easy, colloquial narration occasionally leaves the court for scenes at home, where his parents struggle to make ends meet, and in school, where he cluelessly woos the beautiful Jasmine. Waltman’s lovingly sketched Indianapolis lends the tale further authenticity. The author avoids slam-dunk answers, leaving readers poised for the next book.
Like Derrick, this series is off to a promising high school career. (Fiction. 12-18)