He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Outside Shot: Big Dreams, Hard Times, and One County's Quest for Basketball Greatness, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Outside Shot, one of my narrative’s main characters, Will Schu, has come to a crossroads. He’s physically injured and mentally broken and he’s considering the previously unthinkable: quitting the Scott County High School basketball team, the team he had dreamed of playing for ever since he was a boy.View the video trailer for Outside Shot, and visit Keith O'Brien's website.
To understand Will’s predicament is to understand one of the main narrative threads of Outside Shot. Will was a true county boy, born and raised, a native of the bluegrass hills, just north of Lexington, Ky. He’d grown up idolizing Scott County head coach Billy Hicks, cheering him on to two state titles, and following the players who donned the Cardinal red. Will knew them by name; he’d been to all their games. And of course, Will Schu would follow in their footsteps. He was, after all, not just tall and lean, perfectly built for basketball; he was the grandson and namesake of a former University of Kentucky basketball legend, Wilbur Schu. Yes, young Will was going places, all right. Just look at those long legs and broad shoulders. No doubt about it, folks believed. Will would be a basketball star.
But just before Will’s junior year at Scott County, the outsiders -- talented basketball players, all -- moved into the county. Some alleged that Hicks had recruited them. Others liked to say that the town’s Toyota factory had done the dirty work, giving good jobs to the new basketball players’ parents. The Toyota allegations were particularly ludicrous -- just idle talk in an idle town. And there was no proof of any official recruiting.
But it didn’t matter. The new basketball players were there to stay. Will got passed over, moved to the bench. And then, in anger, he broke his hand. A really bad decision, which on page 99 leaves the boy at that crossroads, waffling between quitting the team and abandoning the only dream he ever had, or pushing on, alone, against impossible odds. “It’s such a hard decision,” Will tells his mother on page 99. “Probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.”