Howard Nathan. A. J. Guyton. Sergio McClain. Marcus Griffin. Frank Williams. Shaun Livingston. This dazzling constellation of talent helped make Peoria a prep basketball hotbed from the 1980s to the 2000s. Jeff Karzen takes readers inside the lives of the players, coaches, and others who defined an era that produced six state titles and four Illinois Mr. Basketball winners. Learn more about how to order the book by clicking here.
Drawing on dozens of in-depth interviews, Karzen tells the stories behind the on-court triumphs while providing a panorama of the entire Peoria scene—the rivalries and relationships, the families and friendships, the hopes and hard work. Karzen also follows the players into their Division 1 and NBA careers and pays special attention to the pipeline that, by connecting Peoria to Champaign-Urbana, powered one of the most successful periods in Fighting Illini basketball history. Intense and intimate, Playgrounds to the Pros chronicles a basketball golden age in America’s quintessential blue-collar town.
Jeff Karzen is a sportswriter who has covered basketball recruiting for twenty years. He is the author of Homer: The Small-Town Baseball Odyssey.
Author and Mattoon High School graduate Will Leitch offers this foreword to Playgrounds To Pros:
“You can’t tell the story of basketball in Illinois without telling the story of Peoria basketball. Jeff Karzen’s history is full of colorful characters, with deep backstories of their own, and the book does a terrific job of both uncovering these stories and telling them in an entertaining fashion. Heading into this book, I knew a little about Peoria basketball. Now I feel connected to it.”