William Forrester, once a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, now spends his days as a unkempt recluse who sits in his window spying on boys playing basketball in the schoolyard below. One of those boys, Jamal Wallace, is an exceptional athlete whose ticket out of the projects is only partially due to his talents on the court. When not showboating for his pals, Jamal is a closet genius whose astronomical test scores earn him a free ride at a top Manhattan prep school. When the boys dare Jamal to break into nosy Forrester's window, Jamal accepts the challenge, but in his haste to escape, he leaves behind his knapsack, filled with his personal writing journals. The next day, via the window, Jamal gets his journals back -- filled with corrections and editorial comments. After much resistance, Jamal allows the literary legend to mentor him and help battle a haughty professor who not only accuses him of plagiarism but seems to have an axe to grind with Forrester himself.