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Inside The Youth Basketball Machine: 'Play Their Hearts Out' (PHOTOS)

Posted: 10/14/10 05:30 AM ET

"Play Their Hearts Out" is an eight-year journey through the world of grassroots basketball, where boys as young as 10 are targeted by shoe company executives and other profiteers in the hunt for the next LeBron James or Michael Jordan. It focuses on Joe Keller, a novice but ambitious coach based in Southern California's Inland Empire, and his team of young boys, including several who would go on to be among the most touted players in the nation. The goal was to get inside this subculture like no one had before, to use Keller and his team to conduct a sort of anthropological study of the sport that exposes what really happens to the boys who grow up inside this world.

Joe Keller
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Prior to 2000, Joe Keller was a car-alarm installer and welder with limited basketball knowledge. Yet that didn’t stop him from creating a grassroots basketball team, the Inland Stars, made up of 9- and 10-year-old boys. He combed the rec centers, parks and playgrounds of Southern California and quickly put together a team of boys so talented that they routinely routed opponents by 50 points or more. His goal was to keep the team together until the players moved on to college and to leverage their talent to get money from agents, college boosters and, eventually, NBA teams. “When the boys graduate from high school, I’ll be rich and done with coaching,” he said.
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