Resident and fourth-generation Leadvillite Roger Johnson published two novels this summer, “On Point: One Team’s Journey from Miner Girls to Cheetahs” and its sequel, “Gifts: The Return,” both set in the fictional town of Oro Hills, Colorado. On their face, the novels are basketball stories about a girls team from a poor high school facing long odds to achieve difficult goals. A quirky women’s book club understands these difficulties and teams with an old man searching for purpose late in life to embrace their community’s youth while challenging systemic obstacles.
“On Point” tells of 16-year-old girls teaming with a retired coach to overcome the low expectations of a town whose economy has collapsed.
Molly Rascon, a basketball geek with a hatred for losing, Bianca Acero-Steele, an indomitable warrior with a dark past, and their teammates begin practice in a neighbor’s driveway to improve their skills. Long hours and determination kindle a strange flame, once-unrealistic dreams emerge, and a journey binds the girls into one heart. Set in a mountain mining community where girls sports are an afterthought and dedicated female athletes an anomaly, “On Point” is a sensitive story, with basketball being the vehicle that provides Molly, Bianca and their friends a chance to secure an identity beyond poverty and violence. The outward competition is on the basketball court, but the internal struggle is life’s arena.
“Gifts: The Return” continues the improbable basketball journey. Love and friendships are the fuel, basketball is the conveyance. A determined point guard, a warrior center, and their Cheetah teammates have learned not to yield even under the most challenging circumstances.
“Players, their parents and coaches of every sport and from every level can identify with the bonds that develop when a team looks inward to achieve its goals and unites with a single purpose into a forever family,” Johnson said of the novel. “The Cheetahs remind the reader how high school sports can embolden and kindle — and provide a path forward.”
Roger Johnson graduated from Lake County High School in 1965. He taught history and coached boys basketball in Greeley for 35 years. After retirement, he coached a girls junior varsity squad for one season in Leadville, the team that became the inspiration for this book. He continues to play an occasional three-on-three game with the local old guys at the Sixth Street Gym.
Johnson’s books can be purchased through independent bookstores or on Amazon.