That time of March Madness has arrived. With four teams and three games left, fans are eagerly awaiting Saturday's game. Which of the two teams will face each other on the court for the final game? Who is going to win?
Basketball season came almost too soon for Ben McBain, especially since he was still living large off their incredible football championship win just a few weeks earlier. And just like that it was already basketball season. He and his friends were having fun, living the dream, and playing the next season's sport. In some ways, Ben has it easy for a sixth grader. He is known as the best point guard throughout the league. His closest friends live, breathe, and play sports with him as well. Another guy, Shawn, joins the team, and Ben is sure, sure, sure they are a shoo-in to win this season.
When a new student comes to town, though, it throws a wrench into the fun of the sports. Chase Braggs is a point guard (like Ben), and he seems to be better, stronger, and faster. He's on their biggest rival's team, Darby. As Lupica says, "And just like that, his season changed before it had even officially begun."
When Ben wonders just how good this kid is, he's shown before the first quarter of the first scrimmage is even over. Chase Braggs is playing for the crowd, and while Ben used to be the best point guard in the league, Braggs is giving him a serious run for his money. There's a lot riding on Ben's shoulders, as he doesn't want to let his team down. Some games you give it all you've got, and it's still not enough. Here's what Ben does instead:
- He hits the courts HARD to practice.
- He agrees to go to the movies with friends and HIM (Chase Braggs), even though he doesn't want to.
- No matter what he is doing or where he is going, he feels like he is losing to Braggs … again.
Is it worth playing this game if it's no longer fun?
And then it happens…Braggs pulls a stunt that is so wrong, that Ben reaches out to his best friend, Lily, who also seems to be caught up in the new guy that has come to town. It is from this talk between best friends that Ben realizes what's really wrong and pushes harder than ever to right this wrong. With the help of friends, inspiration from his love of the game, and even his family, Ben brings his game to basketball.
What Lupica has done with this book, his writing, and the story of Ben McBain during basketball season shines a spotlight on the intricacies of this game and what it means to play with passion. A fans and basketball neophytes alike can pick up a copy of Lupica's YA novels and understand what is happening in the game and the story. This is an author that respects his readers, and you can tell because he doesn't talk down to them, he explains things to them, and he gets them to root for the characters, the plays made, and the game itself.
If you March Madness to continue beyond the upcoming games, consider picking up a copy of Mike Lupica's "Game Changers #2, Play Makers." The Reading Bug in San Carlos has a copy that you can order here.