cover image Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game

Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game

John Coy, illus. by Randy DuBurke. Carolrhoda, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4677-260

In an account brimming with suspense and emotional tension, Coy (Hoop Genius) and DuBurke (Best Shot in the West) show how a game of college-level basketball one Sunday morning in 1944 helped provide a glimpse of the future of the game and of a segregated nation. The man behind the game was John McLendon, coach of the North Carolina College of Negroes’ Eagles, who masterminded the clandestine meet-up between his team and the all-white squad from Duke University Medical School, at a time when segregation laws prohibited play between black and white teams. Initial uneasiness—the athletes, “some of whom had never been this close to a person of a different color, were hesitant to touch or bump into one another”—gave way to a game in which the Eagles trounced Duke using a hard-driving fast-break style; a follow-up match saw the teams blending their ranks. DuBurke’s shadowy images in pencil and paint have the feeling of long-buried photos snapped in secret, while Coy skillfully highlights both the energy and importance of the game and the dangerous social climate in which it was played. Ages 7–11. (Oct.)