Jim Harris: Sports Author Dohrmann Appears at Weekend Lit Festival Here

by Jim Harris  on Friday, Apr. 13, 2012 2:52 pm  

Pulitzer Prize winner and Sports Illustrated senior editor George Dohrmann wil discuss his latest book in Little Rock at the Main Library on Saturday. (Photo by Provided)

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

George Dohrmann, a Pulitzer Prize winner and senior editor for Sports Illustrated, will discuss his latest book, "Play Their Hearts Out," Saturday as part of the annual Arkansas Literary Festival. My good fortune is that I've been tapped to be the moderator of the event, which begins at 2:30 p.m. at the Darragh Center of the Main Library in the River Market District.

I can handle this assignment: I'll quickly introduce a man who in a little over a decade has established himself as the country's leading investigative sports reporter and let him take it away.

Seriously, Dohrmann will read briefly from his book,which digs into the machinations of youth basketball (call it AAU or summer league or whichever title you want to put on it) and how it has become such a cesspool. The remainder of the hour-long session will feature questions from me and the audience.

We might be able to pull a thought or two out of Dohrmann on the Bobby Petrino fiasco at Arkansas, but the appearance is centered around a capitivating book basketball fans will be interesting in reading (and perhaps having signed after the session, as copies will be available).

Dohrmann carved a 422-page book out of years spent "imbedded" with a group of Amateur Athletic Union players in Southern California who traveled the country playing on the elite level of youth basketball. It is through this world that shoe companies enter into the picture plying the best teams with free gear, national camps show off the better players to college recruiters, so-called travel team coaches try to outrecruit each other for the younger players, and colleges lust after the top stars.

Dorhmann weaves this tale through the personal accounts of many players, parents and coaches, focusing on two main figures: Joe Keller, an AAU coach, and Demetrius Walker, a fatherless kid who plays for Keller's program and is instilled at an early age with hoop dreams that may be out of his reach. Walker was profiled in Sports Illustrated at age 14.

Dohrmann won the Pulitzer in 2000 while working in Minnesota as reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where he penned several stories that revealed the academic fraud inside the University of Minnesota basketball program under then-coach Clem Haskins.

"It made me, for a spell, one of the most despised people in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. I still get the occasional email from Gophers fans informing me that I am a jerk," Dohrmann said in his personal bio.

SI quickly took note of the Notre Dame graduate and he joined the magazine's staff, where he's worked ever since. While he focuses on investigative prodjects, he also writes about soccer and college football and basketball.

If you follow him on Twitter (@georgedohrmann) you'll occasionally be entertained by his 140-character-or-less mini-screeds on the recent failure of the U.S. U21 soccer team to advance to the Olympics or on recent college basketball recruiting such as UCLA's signing of Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top 3 prep players in the country.

Fresh out of college in 1995, Dohrmann worked for two years at The Los Angeles Times, where he covered Southern Cal's basketball team for a season until 1997, when he moved on to Minnesota, where those folks didn't realize what was coming to town.

Dohrmann currently lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter and two dogs and is usually writing at his local Starbucks or at Cafe Reverie, he says, or playing soccer.

More sports are on tap with Clay McKinney, a Memphis native and Fort Smith-based lawyer, discussing his "Pinstripe Defection," a story of a small-town attorney's battle with the New York Yankees, in a 6 p.m. session on Friday.

More than 100 authors from around the country will be featured at the festival, with activities starting Friday night at the Main Library with the "Author, Author" cocktail event — it's a ticketed party with proceeds helping fund the annual festival. Saturday and Sunday talk sessions by authors and panels are free throughout the River Market, and the books are geared to all likes and ages. Check out the schedule here for something you're sure to enjoy.

There are even cooking demonstrations to go along with cook books; music; poetry; novels; mystery from the likes of the acclaimed Kevin Brockmeier and others, and parents will definitely want to check out some of the young reader events with their children.

jharris@abpg.com. Aso follow Jim on Twitter @jimharris360



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