Kevin laue, one hand, Kevin laue scholarhship
Ben Margot/AP
President Bush, right, shakes hands with Kevin Laue in 2008.

One-Handed Basketball Player Receives Division I Scholarship

May 27, 2009 07:57 PM
by Denis Cummings
Kevin Laue, who was born without his left forearm, became the first disabled player to receive a Division I basketball scholarship when he accepted an offer from Manhattan College.

Laue Accepts Scholarship to Manhattan

Kevin Laue, born without a left forearm, accepted a basketball scholarship to Division I Manhattan College Wednesday, becoming what is “believed to be the first disabled person ever to receive a Division I basketball scholarship,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Laue, a center listed at either 6-foot-10 or 6-foot-11, averaged 10 points and five rebounds at Fork Union Military Academy, a prep school that has produced more than 150 Division I players in the last 40 years.

Laue was born with his arm stuck between the umbilical cord and his neck, cutting off circulation to his arm and stunting his growth. If his arm had not been in the position, the cord would have likely cut off circulation to his brain. “My arm saved my life,” Laue told The New York Times, which profiled him last December.

Laue played sports for much of his youth; in high school, as he grew to nearly 7 feet tall, he developed the ability to palm a basketball with his right hand. This skill allowed him to develop into one of his school’s top players.

“When Laue catches passes on the perimeter, he holds the ball away from his head the way a water polo player readies a shot,” the Times describes. “On defense, Laue uses his nub to maintain contact with his opponent’s back, and he raises his right arm as a deterrent.”

He broke his leg in his senior season and lost the opportunity to be scouted. He enrolled at Fork Union for a post-graduate year and played against some of the best high school players in the country last year. He received several offer from Division III colleges, but Manhattan was the only Division I school to offer.

“It’s a business,” Laue told The Associated Press about college coaches and recruiters. “Their jobs are all on the line. It’s much safer to take a two-handed guy my size that got beat by me.”

Manhattan coach Barry Rohrssen said he was inspired by former Angels and Yankees pitcher Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand. “Some of the things he did inspired a lot of people with similar problems and just people as a whole,” Rohrssen told The New York Times. “I think with a guy like Kevin, playing at Manhattan and being in New York City, presents an opportunity that can be rewarding for Kevin and also have a ripple effect for everyone involved.”

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Background: Famous disabled athletes

Jim Abbott

There have been many disabled athletes to compete at high levels against able-bodied athletes. Abbott is probably the most famous, writes the Society for American Baseball Research, having pitched 11 seasons in the major leagues and pitching a no-hitter in 1992. In his final season, he batted 24 times, making three sacrifice bunts and getting two hits.

Pete Gray

Before Abbott there was Pete Gray, who lost his right arm in a childhood accident. Gray, an outfielder, hit with one arm and was successful in the minor leagues, hitting five home runs one season, writes The New York Times. In 1945, when many major leaguers were fighting in World War II, Gray signed with the St. Louis Browns and hit .218 in his only major league season.

Willie McQueen and Bobby Martin

Willie McQueen and Bobby Martin, each of whom is missing both legs, have this decade played middle school and high school football, respectively. Playing defensive tackle, both players used their low center of gravity and great upper body strength to clog the middle of the line and stuff runners.

Mike Edwards

Laue is believed to be the first disabled player to receive a basketball scholarship, but he will not be the first disable player to play in a Division I game. In 1998, Notre Dame basketball walk-on Mike Edwards, who used a prosthetic leg after his right leg was amputated, played in an exhibition game, reported the New York Daily News.

Oscar Pistorius

Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius has dominated the Paralympic sprinting events, but he has set his sights on reaching the Olympics. Last May an international court ruled that Pistorius’ prosthetic legs did not give him an unfair advantage, clearing the way for him to qualify for the Olympics. Pistorius fell short of the qualifying time in the 400-meters, but he says he will try to qualify again in 2012.

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