Most basketball stars inspire by transcending what we think is traditionally possible, hitting shots that don’t seem open and finding teammates on the other end of the court that had previously seemed hidden. That’s not the case for 18-year-old Kevin Laue, which is not to say that he doesn’t do many of those things, too. Laue’s skills on the court are overshadowed by a much more basic truth: He’s playing top-level competitive basketball with one arm.
Laue is a 6-foot-1o prospect from California who arrived at Virginia’s Fork Union Military Academy with the hopes of attracting an Ivy League suitor. He is, essentially, Jim Abbott playing a sport where he doesn’t have the luxury of time to anticipate reactionary movements. He’s smart, he’s immensely talented and he can hold his own on one of the most difficult prep basketball circuits in the country.
“It was a science to watch him play,” Laue’s former coach at Amador Valley (Calif.) Rob Collins said. “With Kevin, you had to have vision, bro. And how could I even care if he messed up? He’s only got one hand. He’s just an amazing dude that everyone should meet once.”
Laue is missing his left arm, but he has a quarter-length stump which he uses to grip passes. He relies on an enormous paw of a right hand to block shots and palm the ball after rebounds, a skill he’s perfected in the paint; he’s averaging 6.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game at Fork Union.
Still, it’s what coaches and teammates say about his skills that’s most impressive: Some say they almost forget that he’s missing an arm, which is understandable when you see him on film (which we have after the jump).
“At first I didn’t want to get involved,’” Fork Union coach Fletcher Arritt told Adam Himmelsbach of THE NEW YORK TIMES. “Good gracious, I’ve got enough problems dealing with kids that have two hands. But then we worked him out, and all my players said they wanted him on their team.”
Whether Laue earns his spot at an Ivy League school or not is a legitimate question. Legendary college basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep called Laue a slam dunk prospect if he had two hands, but a doubt with one, since foes could easily find ways to exploit his disability to limit his effectiveness. Still, Telep insisted that, “If he does make it, nobody in the country will have earned it more … he’s a legitimate
His current coach is much more forward.
“I can understand if teams are worried about looking like idiots and making a mistake with this kid,” Arritt said. “But I genuinely don’t think you can make a mistake with him.”
In the meantime, Laue will keep plugging away in Virginia, scoring points while keeping up a macabre sense of humor that keeps himself and his teammates down to earth. When he’s asked what happened to his arm, he routinely says that half of it was eaten while he was surfing off the coast of Hawaii. And most importantly, he doesn’t let his disability hold back his hopes, or those of anyone else who’s missing a limb.
“Things are a struggle for her right now, but she’ll be fine,” Laue said of amputee turned facebook friend Kelli Whitescarver, who searched him out while trying to learn how to cope with life while missing an arm. “I guarantee she’ll be fine, and I hope anyone else in her situation knows that, too.”