Philip Raisor was on the losing side in two of the most storied basketball games ever played. He started at guard for the Muncie Central Bearcats, who fell in the 1954 Indiana state final to tiny Milan, the David-over-Goliath event that inspired the movie Hoosiers. On a basketball scholarship to the University of Kansas, he watched his Wilt Chamberlain–led Jayhawks lose the 1957 NCAA championship in triple overtime to North Carolina. In Outside Shooter, Raisor recounts the hard knocks and hard-won triumphs of a basketball odyssey across 1950s America, from Indiana to Kansas to Louisiana, and from adolescence to adulthood.
This was an era in which a racially divided society was taking halting steps toward integration, and few places held more tension than the sports arena. Raisor saw firsthand the toll of racism in the inner rage and sorrow of Muncie’s star player, John Casterlow, whose life followed a trajectory from playing the legendary Oscar Robertson to a draw—almost—to death in the streets of Detroit at age twenty-three. Later, at Louisiana State University after having transferred from Kansas, Raisor, spurred by the memory of Casterlow, would join in hazardous early attempts to integrate the LSU campus. From Indiana to Louisiana, he sees the ordeal of racism reveal character—including his own—at depths beyond the illumination even of competitive sport.
Devoted though Raisor was to basketball, Outside Shooter captures the period of his life in which he gradually stopped defining himself in terms of the game. As the rise and fall of his fortunes on the basketball court become overshadowed by the shifting patterns of his larger life—the competing measures of acceptance and expectation from his family and companions; the courage and challenge offered by a young woman equally bent on accomplishment; his struggles with failure and doubt juxtaposed with his awakening intellect and conscience—he discovers the sense of purpose that will carry him beyond his playing days and into adulthood as a budding writer.