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Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine
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Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  4,279 ratings  ·  227 reviews
Eight years of unfettered access, a keen sense of a story’s deepest truths, and a genuine compassion for his subject allow Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist George Dohrmann to take readers inside the machine that produces America’s basketball stars.
Hoop dreams aren’t just for players. The fever that grips college basketball prospects hoping to strike big-time NBA gold
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Ballantine Books (first published October 5th 2009)
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Evan Thomas I would definitely think so at 19 they should be able to handle the adult situations that arise in the book.

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Donnie Edgemon
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
All sports fans on my news feed should read this book. Every single one of you. "Play Their Hearts Out" is an eye-opening account of what the players we see on college basketball courts go through before we see them. It's not the rim nailed to a barn, or the neighborhood pick-up game in a cul-de-sac or even twenty-five games a winter with a high school team that paves the path to a college scholarship. All-consuming grassroots basketball with all of its shady operators makes up about 90% or more ...more
Feb 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One reviewer billed this book as the Friday Night Lights of AAU basketball, and the book lived up to this lofty standard. The author spent eight years following an AAU team, with much of the focus on the "coach" and the star player, who was once the No. 1 ranked player as an 8th grader.

While I was aware of the arguments that the AAU system was a major cause of the degradation of team basketball, to see the system in action was downright repulsive. The "coach", after identifying Demetrius Walker
Barnabas Piper
It’s not a badly written book, exactly. It’s more like an exceptionally written long form (*really* long form) investigative journalism piece. It would have been better at 12,000 words than a full book.

And it’s a depressing story of opportunist coaches exploiting kids. And that sucks, though the author tells it well.
Derek Prior
Dec 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and became attached to many of the people that Dohrmann follows. At its core, it's a story about Demetrius Walker and the ways in which the grassroots basketball system chews him up and spits him out. At various points I found myself wanting to stop the story to give Demetrius advice. It seems even the author had a hard time remaining strictly a biographer and it's hard to blame him.

The planets that orbit Demetrius are interesting in their own right. Coach Keller, Aaro
Lucy Montgomery
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting book, especially for someone who has a child/children who play sports at a high level. The book illustrates the morally questionable (and highly profitable) "grassroots" basketball system that funnels kids from grade-school age travel through college recruiting. As with all sports, it is not necessarily the early stand-outs that ultimately reach the highest levels nor are those with the most talent coached/guided to reach their greatest potential. And as with life, the ...more
Sharon Huether
Sep 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
I won this book through Goodreads.I had no idea what young basketball players go through to make it to the top. In a way Demetrius was handicaped because he appeared much older. He really wanted to sign with Indiana, but had 1 more year of high school. Coach Joe did a lot for Demetrius, but let him go when Demetrius needed him, especially with no father figure at home. It did have a happy ending, Demetrius was doing what he wanted to do and he won the championship.
Nasos Delveroudis
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the best sports book ever written.
Aaron P.
Jul 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I am a die-hard sports fan. Evidence of this fact is not hard to find ; For instance I spent the majority of yesterday afternoon watching preseason NFL games - All in anticipation of the Broncos opener. (and the debut of Touchdown Jesus Tim Tebow) Basketball, and the NBA's Denver Nuggets rank second in the hierarchy of my rooting heart. At least where the so-called 'major' sports are concerned. Despite all that I rarely read sports related books. My reasoning for this is simple. I can usually pl ...more
I'm really excited for this one. I won it thru First Reads ...

This book took me a little while to get into, but I was SO hooked. It was literally like watching a train wreck and I would keep my husband up at all hours of the night telling him all the outrageous things I had read that day.

This story is Demetrius Walker's story: about how as a 10-year-old he was recruited by a jerk of a coach (Joe Keller) in the AAU system of SoCal. Joe Keller used this boy so disgustingly to make himself a milli
Oct 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've watched countless hours of basketball in my life (March Madness is my favorite time of year!) but didn't know much about grassroots youth basketball and just how dominant (most Division I college/NBA players have come out of that system) and corrupt (and unregulated) it is. This is an extremely illuminating look at grassroots youth basketball (mainly in Southern California). The author focuses on a coach, Joe Keller, and his protege, Demetrius Walker, who comes to see Keller as a father fig ...more
Tom Gase
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If I read a better book in 2012, I'll be very shocked and pleasantly surprised, as this book is about as good as it gets.
The author, George Dohrmann, follows an AAU basketball team and its players,coaches and parents for eight years. This book has been called by some people the "Friday Night Lights of youth basketball." I couldn't disagree more. I actually liked some characters in Friday Night Lights. No, the Hamlet of youth basketball is probably better.
Although without giving away the ending,
Nov 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book made me so glad that I am a girl. I grew up playing AAU basketball in tournaments all over the nation, and I attended some recruiting camps after receiving letters from colleges in middle school like these kids in the book, but neither my more talented friends, nor I ever faced the crazy pressures that these boys did. Shoe companies were not lining up to take advantage of girl basketball players, and for that, I am so thankful. The free gear and the money that was thrown at the coaches ...more
Nov 12, 2010 added it
Though it took me a long while to get into this book, when I finally did I was hooked. I think Dohrmann started out just a little slow--the first third of the book felt glacially-paced to me. But as the boys age, the story really picks up, and it's really a very informative and interesting read. For anyone who likes sports, and especially basketball, I feel as if this is a must-read. I have seen the LeBron James documentary (the one that starts with him playing in AAU basketball), but that film ...more
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book as a Christmas gift for my dad and as I started wrapping it, I thumbed through it, read the cover and decided I'd read it to see what I thought. Wow, what a great book! Eight years of investigative reporting and George Dorhmann has written a Pulitzer prize-winning non-fiction account of a group of incredibly talented boy basketball players.

This book details the inner world of AAU basketball for players beginning at the age of 10. The author is credible and believable and seem
Edel Henry
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was an addictive but enraging read. Incredibly well written, it really makes you care for the young players at its heart - which makes it all the more difficult as they are exploited and discarded by the corrupt American youth basketball system.

While the book is framed around the difficult journey of Demetrius Walker there are so many cautionary tales within it that it is very easy to finish the book feeling quite empty - particularly when the coaches and camp runners who created the
Jarrad Hamlin
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Play Their Hearts Out, is a very in-depth look at the world of youth basketball. As a former high school assistant basketball coach this book really angered me. The total disregard for athletes and their futures is sickening. The youth basketball machine is exposed for the terrible modern day institution of slavery that it is. Read this book if you are a fan of basketball and want to better understand the sometimes seedy world of youth basketball. Dohrmann put his life into the research and writ ...more
Muneer Uddin
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Dohrmann uses his considerable reportage skills to uncover the cesspool that is AAU basketball. We see the greed and exploitation that young boys are subjected to in the coaches' quests to "make it". I hope that this book leads to some changes in the amateur youth basketball system, to better protect players and ensure that they are given all the opportunities in life that their talent will allow them, ...more
Jack Duboff
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The book, Play Their Hearts Out: A coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann is a really good book because it really opened my eyes and gave me a great insight about what happens behind the scenes with coaches in AAU basketball. It really surprised me that coaches would exploit their own player's talents for their own good, and then just move on and treat them like yesterday's news. If you want to find out what really happens in this world, then read this. ...more
May 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
Fascinating and insightful. Up there with Friday Night Lights. The author spent years following the boys that are the subjects of his book, and it shows.

FYI, the author's blog provides occasional updates on how the boys are doing in college - e.g. [SPOILER]
Southey Blanton
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For any parent who is interested in putting their children in amateur sports leagues this is worth a read to see where many of the stakeholders are coming from and what motivates them. And in most cases it is never the children and their development as young adults or athletes.
Very interesting book on grassroots basketball. Full review is posted on my blog:
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't recall any other nonfiction book in which the author despises the main person he's writing about. Or not unless the person is a killer. Yet here, author George Dohrmann clearly hates Joe Keller, the youth basketball coach who is Dohrmann's window into the corrupt world of youth basketball.

The book opens up with Keller yelling at Dohrmann about how Dohrmann doesn't know anything, doesn't deserve any of Keller's time, and basically stomping around like a teenager. This is before Keller act
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 Togel Singapura plan ...more
Carol Haldy
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Child abuse - the author skillfully details systematic child abuse of these young players at the hands of the following (in no particular order): parents - with visions of NBA dollars dancing in their heads - made incredibly bad decisions for their sons. coaches - in particular Joe Keller ( I would NOT send a child to anything connected with this despicable character) and he was not alone; the Big Three Shoe companies - for being the driving force behind all of the former.

My son played basketba
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports, nonfiction
This account of eight years in the lives of juvenile basketball prospects is a staggering balancing act: enough reporting to give a reader all necessary facts, enough clear writing to paint a full picture through the narrative, and enough background knowledge to give the whole story sufficient context. It's easy to tell which characters the author does and doesn't admire, but he offers factual evidence for all of his impressions and doesn't shy away from any of the unsavory details that surround ...more
Douglas Johnson
This is a good book. I think it was useful to read to all the teenagers who idealize football too much. This is a balanced view from the other side of the field. I think that such books will be useful for those who simply consider sports as their hobby. I myself place bets on sports results here - I found some information about football that I didn't know before. I'm sure this will be useful to me. Every little thing can be important. ...more
Philip Mathis
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A riveting, fascinating, and often troubling account of the grassroots basketball movement. A necessary read for any fan of professional or collegiate sports. The journey to stardom is riddled with advantageous coaches, fraud, and coercive deals. So many talented kids have fallen victim to this system and this book is a beautifully tragic example of that story.
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
A well-written, inside look at youth basketball in the U.S. written by a Sports Illustrated investigative reporter who followed a coach and his players for eight years. The greed and corruption on the part of the coaches and shoe companies is depressing. The adults get rich while the kids get emotionally damaged. I don’t even follow basketball, but I really liked this book.
Rudy Dyck
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantastic book on AAU basketball. It chronicles the story of a dirty coach and a bunch of his players over 8 years. Very interesting and enlightening. Sad and disturbing at parts. Highly recommended for anyone to read about youth basketball and the dirty money between shoe companies, coaches and colleges.
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
I've followed college basketball and recruiting for many years and this book is completely on point. Perfectly shows how the youth basketball system is far more about access and money making and much less about developing both youth and player skills. ...more
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George Anderson Dohrmann (born February 14, 1973), is a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated, the 2000 Pulitzer Prize winner for beat reporting, and author of Play Their Hearts Out, which received the 2011 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing.

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