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February 18, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE LAST SHOT: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey (Touchstone: $11; 230 pp.). Frey spent a year observing the often questionable ways in which major colleges recruited four African American high school basketball stars, until the NCAA halted his research. But Frey had already seen recruiters pressure adolescents as young as 14 with glittering proposals--which could be abruptly withdrawn if the school landed a better prospect.

Basketball offered Frey's subjects their only hope of escaping the poverty and violence of the Coney Island housing projects, and all four were so poorly prepared academically that they had trouble earning the necessary 700 on their SATS. Noting the high rate of failure among African American athletes to complete four-year degrees, Frey writes, "Playing for a scholarship [is] not the black version of the American dream, as I had thought eight months earlier, but a cruel parody of it."

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