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Thursday, Dec 18, 2014

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Cover of The Chosen Ones: The Team that Beat LeBron.

Photo courtesy of: Tony Meale

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Tony Meale

Photographer: Ashley Kempher

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Alumnus' book chronicles an underdog story


Sports journalist and author and 2008 E.W. Scripps School of Journalism alumnus Tony Meale has written and published his first book, The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron.

The book is a behind-the-scenes account of the only Ohio high school basketball team to deny LeBron James' a state championship before he joined the NBA. The victors came from Cincinnati's St. Bernard Roger Bacon during the 2002 state final.

Meale resigned from his newspaper job last July to work on his book full time. The former sportswriter sat down with Ohio University Compass to discuss his time at OHIO and share his experiences as an author and publisher.

Compass: How did your time at Ohio University influence or change your approach to writing and journalism?

Meale: I think, more than anything, it gave me a sense of context. It's one thing to be a writer in the here and now, but when you learn the history of journalism in this country – the important names, theories and schools of thought from different eras – it completely changes your outlook.

In that same vein, it was extremely beneficial to get to know the people in my program. We had six or seven different countries represented among 17 or so people, so the 2007-08 class was a bit of a melting pot in terms of journalistic goals, experiences and interests. My passion has always been sports, which are, of course, very popular in America, but it was educational and eye-opening to see other people just as passionate about other issues, especially issues pertaining to their culture.

Did any of your connections or networking from OHIO help you as you pulled the book together?

You know, I still keep in touch with several people from my class, and there were times when I wanted second opinions on how to handle certain things from a journalism and publishing standpoint. So, it was great to have those resources – not to mention that support and encouragement.

How did you first encounter Roger Bacon's story?

The story is somewhat personal to me in that I'm from Ohio, I graduated high school in the same year as LeBron [James], 2003, and I attended one of Roger Bacon's rival high schools. So, I was following Roger Bacon and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary pretty closely that season. Admittedly – and I told the players and coaches this during the interview process – I didn't give them much of a chance to win, but when they did, I knew immediately how special it was, and I knew it would be several years before people outside of Cincinnati and Ohio realized just how special it truly was.

What is the book about?

The short and sweet answer is, it's about the only Ohio prep basketball team to ever beat LeBron James, which is sort of like saying The Wizard of Oz is about a Kansas farm girl.

Quite simply, it's about the human spirit. It's about the untold stories of struggle and triumph in what, for me, is one of the greatest underdog stories in the history of American sports.

What has been your biggest victory in the creation of this book?

Just knowing that I did it. I think so many people have dreams they want to pursue, but for whatever reason, they don't. Things get in the way. Life gets in the way. Regardless of how well this book sells or doesn't sell, I can always look back at this time in my life and say, "Hey, I wanted to do something, and I did it."

Meale plans to speak at Ohio University in October. For more information about The Chosen Ones: The Team that Beat LeBron, including where to purchase a copy, visit the book's website.