Southern Writer Michael Embry
Jesse Christopher finds out that it’s not easy being the new kid in school, no matter how well you play basketball. When discovered shooting hoops at a school playground by a high school coach, Jesse seems to be the missing piece to the puzzle for a team that aspires to win the Kentucky state championship.
But Jesse faces an array of problems in his new environment as he tries to make friends in the classroom and become part of the school’s close-knit basketball team. Can Jesse overcome the obstacles and lead his team to a state high school basketball title?
Fans packed the gym for the season opener against Bedford. While attendance for basketball games was declining in some urban areas, it was still the most popular event in many rural regions. And with the Pioneers returning all five starters from the previous season, expectations were high. They were projected by the media to have a big impact. Perhaps even win the state tournament.
There had been rumors circulating about the new kid on the team. It almost reached mythical proportions in some places, even to the point that Jesse would probably turn professional after the season. Who was this mystery player? Where did he come from? Was it all hype about his playing ability? Fans were wondering how he would fit in an already talented team. There was also the question about the team’s chemistry with a new player in the lineup. The answers would have to come over the course of the season.
In the weeks leading up to the game, Cole Webster had been mum about the starting lineup with fans and the media. Even with his trusted assistant coach, Larry Billings.
“Have you decided on the starters?” Billings asked as the players were putting on their uniforms in the locker room. “At this point, I sure hope so. You know what I’m sayin’?”
“Well, Larry, I think I’m going to start the boys from last season,” Coach Webster said. “Jesse will be the first player off the bench. I know it sounds crazy because he’s the best player on the team, if not one of the best in the state. I just don’t want any dissension on the team, especially at this point. Maybe there will be some changes during the season, but I want cohesion right now.”
“That makes sense, Coach,” Billings said, nodding his head. “Have you discussed it with him?”
“We talked about it after practice yesterday. He doesn’t have a problem with it. He said he prefers it that way because he’s the newcomer. He’s such a great kid. He amazes me on and off the court. I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a more mature and unselfish kid in my life.”
“He’s a special player,” Billings said. “There’s no doubt about it.”