Former NBA all-star Caron Butler and acclaimed author Justin A. Reynolds tip off a middle grade series in which each book centers on a different young member of an AAU basketball team coached by a former NBA star in his hometown. In the first book, Tony must work to make the team while dealing with the tragedy of his friend’s death.
Tony loves basketball. But the game changed recently when his best friend, Dante, a hoops phenom and the kid he looked up to the most, was killed by a police officer. Tony and his community—Oasis Springs—are dealing with the grief, even as justice for his friend seems fleeting. Tony hopes he can carry on Dante’s legacy by making the Sabres, the AAU basketball team Dante took to two national championships.
The Sabres are one of the best teams around—after all, not every team has a former NBA all-star as its coach. Coach James likes what he sees from Tony at tryouts, but he still doesn’t make the team. Tony takes the devastating news hard until Coach James offers him another chance: join the team as the statistician.
Tony has a sharp mind for the game, and with help from Kiara, Coach James’s daughter, he makes an impact in this new role, even if it’s hard watching his friends play. As the team finds its stride, Tony faces another setback—the officer who killed his friend will be back on the job. With his community reeling and the team just finding its footing on the court, can Tony find a path to healing while helping to bring the Sabres a championship?
Caron Butler is a former two-time NBA all-star who played for fourteen seasons. He is currently an assistant coach for the Miami Heat and previously was a TV commentator on ESPN, NBC, TNT, and NBA TV. In 2016, his memoir, Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA, was published by Lyons Press. Tuff Juice is being produced as a film by Mark Wahlberg. Caron is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist. He created the Butler Elite Basketball Program and the 3D foundation. Caron lives in Miami with his family.
Justin A. Reynolds is the bestselling author of Opposite of Always, which has sold in nineteen other languages and is being produced as a film by Paramount Players. In addition to his sophomore novel, Early Departures, a Kirkus Best Book of 2020, he’s also the author of the middle grade graphic novel Miles Morales: Shock Waves. Justin is also the cofounder of the CLE Reads Book Festival, a Cleveland Book Festival for middle grade and young adult writers, which he launched in July 2019
"An inspirational story that shows that while reality can at times be too sad to bear, it can also—with the support of loved ones—be filled with hope." -Booklist
"The story is notable for its consideration of racism, justice, inequality, and trauma along with exciting basketball action and memorable characters." -The Horn Book
"This bustling narrative is brimming with exciting, detailed basketball scenes and moving life lessons about the things one takes for granted, the importance of community, and the will to succeed despite stacked odds." -Publishers Weekly
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