The sequel to the #1 bestseller Travel Team.
When you're the smallest kid playing a big man's game, the challenges never stop-especially when your name is Danny Walker. Leading your travel team to the national championship may seem like a dream come true, but for Danny, being at the top just means the competition tries that much harder to knock him off. Now Danny's leaving Middletown for the summer and heading to Right Way basketball camp, where he's out of his element and maybe out of his league. The country's best ballers are in attendance, and Danny will need to raise his game if he wants to match up. But it won't be easy. Old rivals and new battles leave Danny wondering if he really has what it takes to stand tall.
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May 14, 2007
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Excerpt from Summer Ball by Mike Lupica
Danny Walker said to his parents, "You know that growth spurt you guys have been promising me my whole life? When does that kick in, exactly?"
They were all sitting at the kitchen table having breakfast: Danny, his mom, his dad. Richie and Ali Walker were finally back together, after having been apart for way too much of Danny's life, for reasons he always said he understood but didn't.
None of that mattered to Danny now. The three of them having breakfast like this had become strictly regulation, instead of something that felt like it ought to be a family holiday.
Richie Walker put down his newspaper and said to his wife, "Which growth spurt do you think he's talking about?"
Ali Walker, chin in her hand, frowning at the question, a real Mom pose if there ever was one, said, "It can only be the big one."
"Oh," Richie said, "the big one."
"Not to be hurtful," Danny's mom said to his dad, "but it's the growth spurt you never really had, dear. Whatever the nice people listing your height in the programs always had to say about you."
"Came close," he said.
Ali grinned. "Missed it by that much."
Now Richie looked at his son. "And despite being the size that I am, I still managed to be All-State at Middletown High, get a scholarship out of here to Syracuse, get to be All-America there and become a lottery pick in the NBA."
"Blah, blah, blah," Danny said.
"Excuse me?" his dad said.
There was no stopping his dad on this one. It was like he was driving to the basket. You just got out of the way.
"And," Richie Walker said, "though my memory gets pretty fuzzy sometimes, I believe before I did all that, I was the point guard on the Middletown team that won the nationals in travel ball when I was twelve. Like another twelve-year-old I know."
"I get it, Dad," Danny said. "Seriously. I get it, okay? I know this act you and Mom like to do the way I know my Boy Meets World reruns."
His best bud, Will Stoddard, had gotten Danny hooked on the show. Will knew more about television shows, old and new, than about any school subject he had ever taken in any grade with any teacher. Danny thought Will secretly wanted to be an actor someday; he might as well get paid for performing, since -he'd been doing it his whole life.
Ali said, "I thought Saved by the Bell was your fave."
"I go back and forth." Now Danny was the one grinning. He didn't know if other kids liked just sitting around with their parents this way. But he never got tired of it.
"Hello?" Richie said. "I wasn't quite finished."
"Sorry, dear," Ali said.
"Missing my own big growth spurt and never actually growing to the five-ten they always listed me at in those programs also didn't prevent me from getting the girl."
It was the absolute, total, last thing on earth he wanted to talk about today. Or think about. Today or ever again, maybe.
One girl in particular, anyway.
"I'm happy for both of you," Danny said. "But, Dad, I know you weren't the smallest kid in every game you ever played. And I am. Sometimes it gets kind of old."
"Yeah, like you're getting old. You just finished the eighth grade, after all. And will be fourteen years old before you know it."
"And just had a losing record for the first time in my life," he said to his dad.
"Horrors!" Ali Walker said. "Six wins and seven losses. Shouldn't we have grounded him for that?"
"I -don't suppose it matters that you were an eighth -grader basically playing on a ninth-grade team, and going up against teams that had all ninth graders," his dad said.
"You know what your man Coach Parcells always said," Danny said, loving it when he could turn one of his father's sayings around on him. "You are what your record says you are."
"You did fine."
"And we wouldn't have won as many games as we did if Ty hadn't transferred," Danny said.
Ty Ross was his other best bud. Meaning a guy bud. And Ty was a lot more than that. In Danny's opinion, he was the best basketball player in town. Of any age. There were a bunch of people who said Ty and Danny were co-best, even though Ty was already a foot taller, but Danny wasn't buying it. He also didn't care what people said--he was just happy to have Ty playing Karl (the Mailman) Malone to his John Stockton, all the way through high school.
Ty had switched from his own travel team to Danny's the year before, mostly so he could play with Danny, and then their team, the Warriors, won the same travel championship Richie Walker's team had once won. At the time, Ty was still going to the Springs School, the public school in town. But he had talked his parents into letting him move over to St. Patrick's, just for one year, so he and Danny didn't have to wait until they got to ninth grade at Middletown High to start playing freshman ball together.