LeBron James dominated high school basketball in Ohio from 1999 to 2003 while at St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron)
, winning three state titles, earning Mr. Basketball honors three times and losing just one game against in-state competition.The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron
(by Tony Meale, $24.95, 372 pages) details the 2001-02 season of Roger Bacon (Cincinnati)
, which captured Ohio's Division II title and became the only Buckeye State squad to beat "The King" during his legendary four-year run.
The book centers on Bacon's late head coach, Bill Brewer, and a promising cast of Spartan players. Brewer, who died of a heart attack in 2007, vowed following a postseason disappointment in 1998 to push his players to the limit – and as illustrated by Meale, push he did.
Following an upset, 64-61 loss at Chaminade-Julienne (Dayton)
in January of the state championship season, Brewer set his team straight with a post-game tirade.
"Bill laid into his players for being too worried about their girlfriends, for not being focused enough on the team, for having mommies and daddies call and ask about playing time. He went off on anything and everything, on anyone and everyone," Meale writes.
Bacon clicked following the setback and accompanying lashing, rolling through the state playoffs and setting up a rematch with LeBron, who led St. Vincent-St. Mary to a regular season victory over the Spartans.
The Chosen Ones opens with a 44-page prologue that lays out the shock and loss felt by Brewer's players, assistant coaches and loved ones following his untimely death. It's a thorough tribute to the man who made Meale's entire project possible through his development of future college players Josh Hausfeld and Monty St. Clair, who wound up at Miami-Ohio, Beckham Wyrick (North Carolina-Wilmington) and Frank Phillips (Findlay College) – the core of Bacon's state championship squad.
Between highlights from the 2001-02 campaign, Meale provides a past, present and future snapshot of each of the key Spartans, picking up momentum as they strive for a trip to the state finals in Columbus.
The final piece of motivation for Roger Bacon comes late in the season when James appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
"Suddenly, everything seemed bigger. The balls bounced a little crisper. The lights shined a little brighter. If Bacon were, in fact, to play LeBron again, the entire nation, the entire basketball world, would be watching. That's when the Spartans realized this wasn't just Ohio high school basketball anymore," Meale writes.
Fans of The Assist
by Neil Swidey and The Miracle of St. Anthony
by Adrian Wojnarowski will appreciate Meale's approach in The Chosen Ones
. Neither of those recent high school basketball classics featured the star power that LeBron brings to the table (with apologies to Bob Hurley), nor the timing. The Heat begin NBA Finals play Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
James, who has reportedly read six books during Miami's playoff run, will probably skip this one – though he shouldn't.The Chosen Ones was released Sunday. It can be ordered through Meale's official site, http://www.thechosenonesthebook.com/.