Shot Clock (Shot Clock #1)

Shot Clock (Shot Clock #1)
Age Range
Release Date
September 06, 2022
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Former NBA All-Star Caron Butler and acclaimed author Justin A. Reynolds tip off the first book in a new middle grade series about a young boy trying to make his mark on an AAU basketball team coached by a former NBA star in his hometown. Perfect for fans of The Crossover and the Track series. A Junior Library Guild Selection!
Tony loves basketball. But the game changed recently when his best friend, Dante, a hoops phenom, was killed by a police officer. Tony hopes he can carry on Dante’s legacy by making the Sabres, the AAU basketball team Dante took to two national championships.

Tony doesn’t make the team, but Coach James likes what he sees from Tony at tryouts and offers him another chance: join the team as the statistician. 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?

Editor review

1 review
Sports and Social Justice Themes
Overall rating
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Tony lives in Oasis Springs, a housing complex in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where many of the residents are Black and economically disadvantaged. His father works two jobs, and his mother is often indisposed, suffering from a condition that sounds like bipolar disorder. Tony loves to play basketball, and his best friend, Dante, is an outstanding player and well as a fantastic student and community member. When Dante is shot and killed by a police officer, Tony's world falls apart. He and Dante's brother, Terry, were going to try out for the travel team Dante was on, the Sabres, but both boys are struggling in the wake of Dante's murder. For Tony, it means finding it hard to focus, but for Terry, it means episodes of rage and the feeling that nothing matters, and he might as well join a local gang. Coach James, who grew up in Oasis Springs, is a committed coach who wants to show his players that there is more to the world than their Milwaukee neighborhood. Terry makes the team, but Tony does not. Coach James offers him a position as a statistician, so that he can be part of the team and use his math skills to help the players. Tony doesn't like the idea at first, but eventually sees the merit, and enjoys working with Kiara, the coach's smart daughter. The whole team is affected by Dante's death, but some deal with it better than others. KO refuses to listen to Tony's strategies based on statistics and isn't a good team player. He eventually leaves to play on a rival team. The Sabres have the opportunity to play at a championship in Orlando if they can do well enough during the season, but it's not easy. Tony's mother ends up going to the hospital, and his father takes him and his sister to stay with Big Mama for a while. Tony loves being away from the city, in a larger, quieter house, but the family's life is centered in Oasis Springs. The community is dealt another blow when the policeman who shot Dante is found not guilty and is returned to his regular beat. There are a lot of protests and community involvement, and Tony and Terry must find a way to balance their love for their community with their need to find a way out of it through basketball. As the coach says, they can always come back after they get an education.
Good Points
Like Buford's Kneel, this book deftly combines lots of sports descriptions (including Bowen style score boards on the pages during some of the games) with an underlying theme of social justice and community. Unlike Kneel, it is geared to an upper middle grade audience in respect to language and the way the social justice elements are presented. Dante's shooting happens off page, and the book is more concerned about the effect that this occurence has on the character's ability to go forward. And they do go forward. Coach James and his team are an excellent system of support for both Tony and Terry, even though Terry gets sucked into the seamy side of Oasis Springs for a while. Tony's family is very supportive, even though they have their share of challenges. Butler and reynolds' preface gives a very detailed view of the book they envisioned; they wanted young Black men to see their lived experiences in the pages, but also to see a hopeful outcome. My favorite part was that Tony's basketball skills are not enough to get him a college scholarship, his math abilities might be enough to get him involved in sports through another avenue. It was also very clear that there is a LOT of work involved in being successful in sports, a message many of my students could use. This would be an excellent book for an 8th grade core novel unit.

This had a lot of complex social interactions, and would be a sports book that would appeal to teachers and students alike. Think of this as Deuker level of sports writing, not Bowen level.

I'm definitely purchasing this one, because there is a LOT of basketball, as well as social justice issues. It will be a fantastic choice for my stronger 8th grade readers, and would be an excellent choice in high school as well. I really appreciated that while the setting was in the inner city, the language was never "gritty"; there are even a few episodes where "bump" is used as a euphemism for the f-word. There was definitely a lot of effort put in to balancing the various aspects of this story, and in the end, the author successfully pulled off the book they describe wanting to write in the preface. Nice mix of things. There should be more collaborative efforts between athletes and writers.
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