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

Extended Audio Sample Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine, by George Dohrmann Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (953 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: George Dohrmann Narrator: Emily Rose Spee Publisher: Buck 50 Productions Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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. Drawing on eight years of reporting and telling the very specific tale of one talented young recruit, his coach, and his teammates, Dohrmann immerses listeners in the world of grassroots basketball, where men hunt for future NBA stars and young boys and their parents navigate a tumultuous course in pursuit of basketball glory.

At the book’s heart are the personal stories of two compelling figures: Joe Keller, an ambitious coach with a master plan to find and promote “the next LeBron,” and Demetrius Walker, a fatherless latchkey kid who falls under Keller’s sway and struggles to live up to unrealistic expectations. In Play Their Hearts Out, Dohrmann presents a thoroughly compelling narrative, exposing the gritty reality beneath so many dreams of fame and glory.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[A] tour de force of reporting, filled with deft storytelling and vivid character studies…”

    Washington Post (editorial review)

  • “A wonderful and immaculately reported first book…It’s a brilliant and heart-wrenching journey, and a cautionary tale to any basketball player who thinks the path to the NBA is a slam dunk.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “What Alexander Wolff and Armen Keteyian and Dan Wetzel and Don Yaeger did for college basketball recruiting, Pulitzer Prize–winning sportswriter Dohrmann does for grassroots basketball in this memorable book…His insights into the seamy side of youth basketball are investigative journalism at its best. An easy Verdict: this is one of the best sports books of recent years. Highly recommended.”

    Library Journal

  • “Basketball fans frequently hear references to AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) summer leagues, in which young players have a chance to hone their games. The AAU leagues are often criticized for exploiting young kids, but most of these charges have been based on rumor or hearsay. Until now. Dohrmann, the last sportswriter to win a Pulitzer Prize, spent approximately nine years researching this book…In Dohrmann’s portrayal, Keller emerges as a shameless promoter of himself and his players, a poor coach, and a man for whom ethics are always relative. Money, of course, is key…In fact, as Dohrmann shows, everyone makes money in this ‘amateur’ enterprise except the kids. An eye-opening look at the underbelly of modern American sports.”


  • “Sit down and read the Friday Night Lights of youth basketball. Except the landscape is even darker here, greed and blind ambition stirred together in a toxic stew, the perversions of the modern American athletic dream even more perverted. This is nothing less than Dickens brought up to date, the characters in Oliver Twist dressed in Adidas warm-up suits. Amazing stuff. You’ll never watch basketball the same again.”

    Leigh Montville, author of The Big Bam

  • “Like a versatile baller, George Dohrmann swings seamlessly from position to position: investigative journalist, social critic, gifted storyteller. The result, Play Their Hearts Out is a gem of a book that addresses THE question central to contemporary basketball: how does such an unseemly culture spring from such an essentially beautiful game? You’ll come away rooting harder than ever for the kids and harder than ever against the basketball profiteers.”

    L. Jon Wertheim, author of Strokes of Genius

  • Kirkus Reviews Top 25 Book • Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Mark | 1/15/2014

    " This is a sad and maddening tale of how young kids are exploited in youth basketball. It gave me a lot to think about while watching college basketball since almost all big-time players come up through this system. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Brad | 12/20/2013

    " Great book about grassroots/AAU basketball and how the coaches care only about themselves and how the kids are not actually coached, but instead it exposes the sense of entitlement prevalent in amatewur basketball "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Mariah | 10/3/2013

    " This book was both sad, interesting, and depressing. If you play competitive sports, especially basketball, you might be interested in reading this. (I gave it 3 stars instead of 4 for some swearing, though. Definite downside.) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Adam | 9/17/2013

    " Phenomenal read on the state (rife with greed, particularly at the higher levels) of grassroots basketball, using the story of a team, its coach, and the "star" player as the foundation. "

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About the Author

George Dohrmann is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated. He is the magazine's sole investigative reporter and has covered topics ranging from steroid use in baseball, to dog fighting, to cheating in college sports. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 as a staff writer at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and sports editors for the Associated Press formally honored him for his investigative reporting, enterprise reporting, and feature writing prior to his joining Sports Illustrated. He lives in San Francisco with his family. This is his first book.

About the Narrator

Emily Rose Speer has been a vocal performer for nearly fifteen years and currently performs with the Canticum Novum Singers, a chorus conducted by Harold Rosenbaum in New York City. She has performed off Broadway and in regional and local theater productions around the country. She received her certificate in musical theater from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York in 2004.