The Sixth Man (the Triple Threat, 2) by John FeinsteinThe Sixth Man (the Triple Threat, 2) by John Feinstein

The Sixth Man (the Triple Threat, 2)

byJohn Feinstein

Paperback | September 6, 2016

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Perfect for sports-loving kids and fans of books by Mike Lupica, book two in the Triple Threat series by New York Times bestselling author John Feinstein delivers a hard-hitting account of prejudice and perseverance on the basketball court.
 
It’s basketball season. And for once, triple threat Alex Myers is not the one in the spotlight. There’s a new new guy in town, Max Bellotti—and he promises to turn the Lions’ losing streak around and lead the team to a conference title.
 
Alex is psyched, but some of the older guys on the team resent being benched in favor of an upstart freshman. And when Max comes out as gay, not everyone takes the news in stride. Snide comments and cold shoulders escalate into heated protests and an out-and-out war with the school board. While controversy swirls around them, the Lions have to decide: Will personal issues sink their season, or can they find a way to stand together as a team?
 
John Feinstein has been praised as “the best writer of sports books in America today” (The Boston Globe). This second installment in his Triple Threat series delivers action and intensity, and a look beyond the headlines of a hot-button topic in sports today.

“Suspenseful and well-dramatized sports action scenes. . . . Solidly drawn, both on and off the court.” —Kirkus Reviews
 
“The realistic social situations are interspersed with sports strategy, practices, and
plenty of action. Fans will cheer for more of Alex’s story as he inches closer to spring and the dugout.” —Booklist
John Feinstein is the author of many bestselling books, including A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled. His books for young readers offer a winning combination of sports, action, and intrigue, with Last Shot receiving the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best young adult mystery of the year. He lives in Potomac, Maryland, and on Shel...
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Title:The Sixth Man (the Triple Threat, 2)Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 7.63 × 5.25 × 0.7 inPublished:September 6, 2016Publisher:Random House Children's BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385753535

ISBN - 13:9780385753531

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Read from the Book

1The last thing Alex wanted to do the night after losing the state championship was go to the holiday dance. But he had asked Christine Whitford to go with him weeks ago, and it had taken him weeks before that to work up the nerve to ask her. You don’t blow off your first date with the prettiest girl in school because you’re sulking.“It’ll be good for you,” his mom insisted when he came downstairs, feeling goofy in the blue blazer, white shirt, red tie, and khaki pants she had laid out for him. “You look very handsome.”If being with Christine didn’t take his mind off the game, nothing would. She had texted him that afternoon to make sure he still wanted to go. Of course! he’d texted back, even though moping had become his favorite sport at that point.Christine was waiting for him in the lobby just outside the gym, where the dance was being held. They had agreed to meet at school--the better, Alex thought, to avoid awkward parental hovering. Life would be much simpler in two years when he had a driver’s license.She looked spectacular in a black dress and low black heels. She smiled when he walked in--the smile he’d seen the first day of school in French class. Entire rooms, entire towns, lit up when Christine Whitford smiled.“You clean up very nicely,” she said. “I’m impressed.”“You mean surprised,” he answered.“That too,” she said, taking his arm.He realized as they walked in that he had forgotten to compliment her.“Um, you look really good too,” he said. “I mean, better than good . . . Just, um, wow.”Oh God, if only this were as easy as football.She laughed. “Thanks, Alex--I get it.”He took a deep breath. He appreciated the fact that she was trying to make it easy for him--and that she hadn’t brought up the game. Since she worked for the school newspaper, the Weekly Roar, she had been in Pittsburgh the night before too. He was about to ask her how the trip home had gone when, as the police would say, the trouble began.“Hey, Myers, nice try. Too bad,” came one voice.Then another: “Don’t feel bad, Alex; there’s always next year!”And: “What happened on the last play? Sooo close.”They were surrounded before Alex could even ask Christine if she wanted something to drink. Earlier in the year, when he was the new kid in school and surgically attached to the bench as the third-string quarterback, he would have adored the attention. Now he wanted to run and hide.He looked up and thought he saw the cavalry coming in the form of Matt Gordon--who had been the starting quarterback and team captain until he had admitted to taking steroids just prior to the championship game. He’d been a good friend to Alex, though. A mentor and a supporter even though they both wanted the same spot on the team.Now here he was, coming to Alex’s rescue as he had done so often in the past.“Hey, Goldie,” he said. “You look busy. Mind if I dance with your date so she doesn’t get bored?”Maybe, Alex thought, he was joking. Or maybe Christine would say no thanks.No such luck.“Do you mind, Alex?” she said. She leaned up and whispered in his ear, “I’ll be back by the time you get rid of all your fans.”She was gone an instant later, leaving Alex with all his fans. He’d never felt more alone in his life.It wasn’t until Sunday morning that Alex saw what had happened on the last play on Friday night. He was up early after a semi-sleepless night. He’d gotten to dance with Christine exactly once. As soon as other guys saw her with Matt, they had practically lined up to dance with her. She hadn’t seemed to mind the attention.Alex fast-forwarded through the recording of the game until he reached the final minute and heard the breathless voice of the play-by-play announcer:“The Pennsylvania state championship comes down to one final play! Myers is in the shotgun. He drops--Nichols almost has him! He dodges right and throws . . . ! There’s Ellington in the end zone . . . ! No--no! Knocked away by Kendrick Martin for Beaver Falls! It looked like the pass was there, but Martin got his hand on it at the last possible second!“Beaver Falls wins! Beaver Falls is the state champion!”Alex hit the mute button. He couldn’t bear to hear another word, although he did watch the Beaver Falls players celebrating. There was a brief shot of the lineman helping him up and his teammates coming to console him.They showed a replay, and Alex could see that he’d thrown a good pass--pretty close to perfect--but the Beaver Falls defender had made a great diving play to get his hand on the ball. They had missed being state champions by about two inches.He clicked the TV off just as his mother walked into the room.“You watched it?” she said.“Twice,” Alex said. “I needed to throw the ball about two inches more to the left.”“But you couldn’t have known that. . . .”Alex held up his hand. “I know, Mom. I’m not beating myself up. It was a tough play and I just didn’t quite pull it off.”“Next year,” his mom said.Alex smiled. He’d heard that at least a hundred times the previous night. Next year was a long way off, and the team would be in upheaval. Several key seniors were graduating, and he wondered if Matt Gordon would be allowed to play after the steroid thing. Plus, there would be a new coaching staff. Matt’s father, who had been the head coach, was forced to resign after trying to cover up his son’s use of steroids by making it seem like Alex was the one using PEDs. It had been a mess. It would continue to be a mess.“We’ll see,” Alex finally said in response to his mother. “Things will be a lot different.”“They’ll be better,” his mom said, putting her hands on her hips in her I’m right, don’t argue with me pose. “At least you can rest a little bit now.”Alex shook his head. “Not exactly,” he said. “I start basketball tomorrow.”2Basketball practice had started during the football playoffs, so Alex and Jonas were two weeks behind. But Tom Hillier, the interim head football coach, had pled their case with the basketball coach and had set up a meeting for them at the hideous time of 7:00 a.m. Monday morning.Alex dragged into the gym, at 6:55. There were still remnants from the dance--extra chairs, strings of lights, and the podium where the band had been. Alex shuddered, and not just because of the cold, dark December morning.The basketball offices were located right off the gym floor. Unlike the football offices, which were new and spacious, the basketball offices were dingy and cramped. There were two of them: one that said Head Coach and one across the narrow hallway that said Assistants.Alex found Jonas standing in the hallway--there was no place to sit--leaning against the wall. Apparently Coach Archer hadn’t arrived yet.“Thought you were going to be late, Goldie,” Jonas said sleepily. “It’s 6:59.”“So I’m a minute early,” Alex said. “No coach?”Jonas yawned and shook his head.Jonas was a little taller than Alex, about six two, and had the wiry build of a wide receiver, which was what he had been all fall. Alex had played enough pickup basketball with him to know he was a very good shooter. Those long arms would serve him well.Alex wasn’t the natural in basketball that he was in football. His “golden arm” wouldn’t do him much good on a basketball court. But his junior high coach back in Massachusetts had said he had a lot of court sense as a point guard, and Alex was hoping to move up to varsity here. Chester Heights had won only seven basketball games last year--clearly they could use some help.He and Jonas waited in silence. Alex kept checking his watch. First period was seven-thirty and they still had to go to their lockers and make their way through the crowded hallways to get to class. If Coach Archer didn’t arrive soon, there wouldn’t be very much time to talk.Evan Archer was new at Chester Heights. According to what Alex had read, he was thirty-six years old and had been hired from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia, where he’d been an assistant coach for seven years.The school’s website described Archer this way: “A fiery competitor throughout his playing days at Virginia Tech, he led the Hokies to postseason play in both his junior and senior years.”Alex had looked up Archer’s college statistics. Apparently he had “led” the Hokies from the bench, because he had averaged four minutes per game as a senior and had scored a total of twenty-nine points in thirty-three games. Still, Alex thought playing for a coach who had gone to school in the ACC, one of the college basketball conferences, would be cool.Jonas moved away from the wall he had been leaning on. There was a window that looked out on the gym floor, so he must have seen someone coming.“About time,” Jonas mumbled, a moment before the door opened.If Coach Archer felt any guilt about being late, he didn’t show it.“Come on in here,” he said, unlocking the door to his office without so much as a hello, a good morning, or a thanks for coming in early.Two chairs sat opposite Coach Archer’s desk. He gestured for Alex and Jonas to sit down.“This won’t take long,” he said. “I know you guys have to get to class.”Good, Alex thought, he’s at least aware of the fact that we’re expected to go to school.“So. We’ve been practicing for two weeks and our first game, as you probably know, is Friday night,” he said. “I’m not inclined to disrupt the progress we’ve made by bringing two new guys in a few days before the opener.“I know you couldn’t make tryouts or practice because you were playing football. And I know you were both team stars, but basketball’s a different game. So, here’s what I can do. I’ll put you with the JVs, who don’t start practice until tomorrow. That way we’ll get to see what you can or can’t do and you won’t interfere with our game prep for Wilmington North.”Alex glanced quickly at Jonas to see his reaction to this. His face gave away nothing.“You guys okay with that?” Coach Archer asked when neither Alex nor Jonas said anything. “If not, you can just be football heroes all winter and we’ll call it no harm, no foul.”“I’m okay with the JVs, Coach,” Jonas said. “As long as we’ll get a chance to prove we can help the team.”Coach Archer raised an eyebrow, then leaned forward and pointed a finger at Jonas. “Anyone who gives us a chance to win will be given a chance, Ellington. Including football heroes.”Clearly, he had some kind of thing against football players. Alex was beginning to wonder if all high school coaches in all sports had to prove they were the boss by making it clear you had no power whatsoever.“Coach, I’m fine with it too,” he said, becoming aware that both Jonas and Coach Archer were waiting for him to say something.“Good,” Coach Archer said, standing up to indicate the meeting was over. “The JVs practice at 6:00 a.m. because both the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams have the court after school. Be here at 5:45 tomorrow and report to Coach Birdy. He’ll be expecting you.”Alex’s head was spinning. To get here at 5:45 he’d have to be up by 5:00 and out of the house on his bike--in the cold--by 5:20. He couldn’t ask his mom to get up that early to drive him. If Jonas was thinking the same thing, he didn’t show it.“We’ll be here, Coach,” Jonas said, suddenly becoming the spokesman for both of them. “Thanks for the opportunity.”They shook hands and turned to go, Jonas practically pushing Alex through the door. Once they were away from the gym and heading to their lockers, Alex exploded.“What is his problem?! The JVs--at 6:00 a.m.? Football heroes?! He’s worse than Coach Gordon, and I didn’t think that was possible!”“Easy there, big fella,” Jonas said, smiling--which made Alex even angrier. “We won’t be on the JVs very long. The guy wants to win, right? You’ve played pickup with Gormley and Holder, right?”“So?”“They’re the two best players on varsity. They better than us?”“Not Gormley. Holder’s good. But he’s not a guard.”“Exactly. Coach’s gonna need us, and he knows it. He’s just trying to be a tough guy. I’ll bet you our next trip to Stark’s that we both play Friday night.”“Deal,” Alex said. “But if you’re wrong, I’m ordering a second burger--and fries.”At lunch that day, Alex began to think he might lose his bet to Jonas.He and Jonas were sitting at their usual table with Christine. Christine had sent him a text Sunday night saying she’d had a good time on Saturday. Alex resisted the urge to ask if she’d sent the same text to all the guys she’d danced with. He simply replied Me too--and then wanted to kick himself the minute he’d hit send. Was that the best he could do?Alex and Jonas were filling Christine in on their meeting with Coach Archer when Matt Gordon, carrying a vanilla milk shake, walked over and sat down.“When did you start drinking milk shakes?” Alex asked.“I’m not an athlete anymore,” Matt said. “Might as well enjoy myself.”Matt had been suspended by the Pennsylvania High School Athletic Association from participating in any varsity sports for the rest of the school year.“You’ll be an athlete again; you know that,” Alex said. “Come on.”Gordon grinned. He was one of those guys who was impossible not to like. He was funny, self-deprecating, and a natural leader. Alex thought of the line he’d heard his dad use to describe Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: “Girls want to be with him; guys want to be like him.”And then he couldn’t help but think of Matt dancing with Christine. . . .“For now, I’m happy to be a non-athlete,” Matt said. “If I never see a weight room again, it’ll be fine by me.”They were quiet for a moment. Matt changed the subject. “So, you guys ready to start hoops practice this afternoon?”“Ha,” Alex laughed. “Not exactly.”He filled Matt in on their meeting with Coach Archer. Matt was shaking his head and laughing by the time he was finished.

Editorial Reviews

"Suspenseful and well-dramatized sports action scenes...Solidly drawn, both on and off the court." - Kirkus Reviews

“The realistic social situations are interspersed with sports strategy, practices, and
plenty of action. Fans will cheer for more of Alex’s story as he inches closer to spring and the dugout.” — Booklist
 




From the Hardcover edition.