Reviews for On These Courts : A Miracle Season That Changed a City, a Once-Future Star, and a Team Forever
Booklist Reviews 2013 April #2
Drash, a staff writer and senior producer at CNN.com, lays the hype on triple-thick in this account of Lester Middle School's march to the Tennessee state basketball championship last year, improbably led by favorite son and former NBA star Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway. Drash relates Hardaway's coming-of-age on the inner-city streets of Memphis, his incandescent but too-brief NBA career, and his decision to help coach the team led by childhood friend Desmond Merriweather, who was struggling with colon cancer. Drash covers the kids, too, and the almost overwhelming obstacles they faced and even sometimes overcame. It's certainly a made-for-Hollywood story--don't be surprised if that's where it winds up--but readers can only be inspired by Hardaway's devotion to his players and their athletic and academic success. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #1
The story of former NBA star Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway's return to the mean streets of his youth to lead a team of disadvantaged middle schoolers to basketball glory. Even the schmaltziest made-for-TV sports movie would be hard-pressed to squeeze in all of the clichés packed into the tale of Hardaway's homecoming to the rough-and-tumble Memphis neighborhood of Binghampton: the local boy done good who returns to help underprivileged youth at the request of a cancer-stricken friend; the emotionally scarred, delinquent boys who turn their lives around when the star athlete becomes the father figure they never had; the rival gangs who call a truce during the season and unite to make sure the team stays out of trouble. And yet, each of those elements rings true in CNN.com writer Drash's debut. The author leverages shared geographical and basketball roots to chronicle Hardaway's transformation from NBA All-Star (a career unfortunately derailed by a series of injuries) to middle school basketball coach in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country. Hardaway originally took the job to help out the school's coach, childhood friend Desmond Merriweather, when Merriweather was diagnosed with late-stage cancer, but stayed when he saw the opportunity to be a positive role model for an unruly group of boys who were growing up, as he had, with very little. The troubled but talented team quickly transformed into a state title contender, and the combined influence of Hardaway and Merriweather helped them maximize their potential both on the court and in the classroom. Despite the paint-by-numbers narrative arc, there are genuinely touching moments, and it's always uplifting to see a wealthy superstar give more than just money to help his community. A feel-good story that begs for a where-are-they-now follow-up in 10 years. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Express Reviews
Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway was a Parade Magazine National High School Player of the Year in 1990 and Memphis State University All American who in just his second NBA season helped lead the Orlando Magic as far as the finals. After three more seasons as an All Star, injuries struck, and a few years later a diminished Hardaway retired in 2008. He had risen from the meanest streets of Memphis to stardom and wealth, but he left basketball without a championship. Drash (senior producer & staff writer, CNN.com) tells of Hardaway's return to those Memphis streets to help coach a middle school team in its own quest for a state title. Along the way, Hardaway did far more, giving much-needed fatherly love and helping instill discipline among his players, as incidents at school involving them dropped and grades rose. As a bonus, owing to the team's unifying effect on the neighborhood, rival gangs even declared a rare truce. Particularly impressive is that Hardaway did all this without an accompanying PR blitz. Verdict Recommended not just to NBA fans but to fans of uplifting sports stories and those who cling to the belief that social change really can be effected, even if only a little at a time.--Jim Burns, Jacksonville P.L., FL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 April #2
Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, the former pro-basketball star (who first played for the Orlando Magic), recently returned to his hometown of Memphis in a most unusual capacity: as middle school basketball coach. Hardaway initially volunteered to help head coach Desmond Merriweather, a longtime friend battling cancer. As Lester Middle School's head coach for the 2012 season, Hardaway provided a positive male role model for players who desperately needed one and was a source of pride for a community long plagued by drugs and violence. What could have been a stirring account of a city looking for redemption, however, is turned mawkish and maudlin by Drash's clumsy prose: "Penny let fly a three-pointer from so deep it seemed like he was standing across town at Elvis's home, Graceland." Drash attended a youth basketball camp with Hardaway--and his description of the experience is one of the few instances in which he portrays Hardaway as a human being rather than as a saint shepherding wayward youths. (May) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC