The Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals may be the kings of the courts in the Blue Grass State, but residents take high school hoops seriously, too. Author and frequent OAG contributor Keith O’Brien spent a year with the Scott County Cardinals, an elite high school program. In his new book Outside Shot: Big Dreams, Hard Times, and One County’s Quest for Basketball Greatness, O’Brien chronicles the challenges and pressures facing the Cardinals’ coach and players. Bill Littlefield spoke with O’Brien about the book and his time with the team.
Bill’s thoughts on Outside ShotTo write Outside Shot, Keith O’Brien spent a year with the Scott County Cardinals, a high school basketball team in Kentucky good enough to draw 6-foot-8 transfer students from neighboring institutions.
High school basketball matters in Kentucky the way high school football matters in Texas, which goes some way toward explaining why Outside Shot has been compared to Friday Night Lights. Like Buzz Bissinger’s celebrated chronicle of a season with the Permian Panthers, O’Brien’s book has much to say about the community in which the Scott County team is set. The games are exciting and the passion for basketball is palpable, but Outside Shot will make some city dwellers glad they live in places that provide diversions other than high school sports. As O’Brien told me when we discussed the book, a high school basketball star in Scott County will be remembered forever. Unhappily, numbers of the young men whom O’Brien came to know couldn’t see much beyond that possibility.
Outside Shot is an ambitious book full of powerful and engaging stories. It will be placed on the sports shelf in the bookstores, but it probably ought to in the sociology section, too.