A college basketball player gets a freakish chance at the big time in this debut novel.
Jimmy Burnside is a junior at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, at the start of Beaver’s tale. Jimmy is an avid basketball player, but he’s only 6 feet tall. Appalachian is a Division I school, where an enthusiastic player like Jimmy (“He couldn’t dunk a basketball, but he could grab the rim, and that wasn’t bad for a six-foot white kid”) can’t join the team even as a walk-on. Jimmy has a normal college life. When he returns home for summer break, he reconnects with his friends Charles Andrews, a 6-foot-6-inch basketball player who attends Elon College on a Division II scholarship, and Eddie Thomas, a solid guard in high school, who goes to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At 5 feet, 7 inches, “Eddie wasn’t recruited by anyone” to play college basketball. The three are looking forward to playing ball on their home courts for one last summer before college ends and life takes them in different directions. But shortly after Jimmy settles into his usual routine back home, he starts experiencing something so strange as to be medically unusual: He begins growing. He passes 6 feet, 2 inches, then 6 feet, 4 inches—all in the span of weeks while maintaining a healthy weight. His family doctor is baffled; Jimmy stopped growing in the eighth grade. Jimmy has always been a gifted player. With his skills now having progressed with his height (He tops out at well over 7 feet), his vague ideas about enrolling in law school take a back seat to a burgeoning basketball career. The author’s vibrant modern-day fable is in many ways the basketball version of Daniel Keyes’ short story “Flowers for Algernon.” Beaver tells his tale with a straightforward prose that’s smooth (“In North Carolina, you can shake a tree and a dozen 5’7” guards, who are good ball handlers and passers, will fall out”), if occasionally flat. And he deftly handles his talented protagonist (“As pure a shooter as anyone playing high school basketball in the state of North Carolina his senior year”) and the story’s fifth-act plot twists. This very readable book is a must for hoops fans.
An engaging parable about playing basketball and achieving your dreams.