He's Twice As Amazing

February 12, 2007

THE MOST excitingplayer in basketball is a 6'10" high school junior named Kevin Laue, whichrhymes with wow, as in, "Wow, I can't believe he just did that." Whathe does is a little of everything. The one knock against him: no left hand. Andit's true. Kevin was born with no arm below his left elbow.

Teammates call himLaue Ming. "His nickname should be Twice Amazing," says Rob Collins,Kevin's coach at Amador Valley High in Pleasanton, Calif., "because he'stwice as amazing as anyone I've ever seen."

When Kevin wasborn, his umbilical cord was wrapped twice around his neck like a noose."Just let him breathe," prayed his mother, Jodi, "and I'll acceptanything else." In that instant, Kevin cried.

So Jodi and WayneLaue accepted that their son might never cut his own meat or tie his own shoesor play anything but soccer. But Kevin didn't like soccer. When he complainedthat he couldn't pop a wheelie on his bike, Jodi bought him a prosthetic arm.But he never used it.

So the Laues wentthe other way, refusing to buy Velcro-fastened shoes, allowing Kevin to dropsoccer for football and letting their hearts break a little when afourth-grader taunted him as "One-Armed Jack."

Adults could beworse, always mindful to say, "You have beautiful red hair," beforefollowing up with, "What happened to your arm?"

"Tell them ashark bit it off," Jodi suggested, and Kevin has done just that ever since."It's always the same story," he says. "Big Island, bull shark,1995."

As aneight-year-old vacationing in Hawaii, Kevin thought it would be funny tostagger out of the surf with ketchup covering "the Nub," as he callsthe arm. His parents said no, but his sense of humor remains disarming,sometimes literally so.

"Once hedeveloped that," says Jodi, "everything changed."

In sixth gradeKevin announced that he wanted to play basketball, which Jodi says he hadavoided because of the uniform. "He couldn't hide it like he could infootball," she says.

At 10, Kevin losthis father to melanoma. Jodi remarried, to Jim Jarnagin, making Kevin theyoungest child in a Brady Bunch family with five siblings, all of whom can tellyou that only two things have stymied their baby brother: guitars and monkeybars.

"It seems alittle unfair," Kevin says, "but I'm happy with what God gaveme."

God is stillgiving, to judge by the boy's growth plate. By seventh grade, when Kevin wascut from the school team and turned to AAU ball, his feet were growing twosizes a year. (He now wears a size 17.) In eighth grade he was palming the balland dunking. His oversized right hand, which looks as big as a novelty foamfinger, is known around town as the Mitt. With it he catches passes, makessteals and gathers rebounds. "It's like a lacrosse stick," saysteammate Nick Johansen.

None of whichCollins knew when he left Richmond (Calif.) High—the school featured in CoachCarter—to take the job at Amador Valley. "At Richmond we had one guy goingto Indiana, one to USF," says Collins. "In my first meeting at Amador,I find out we have a kid with one arm."

Then he heard thestories: In one jayvee game last year Kevin had 20 blocks. In another heintercepted a pass, dribbled the length of the floor and dunked. He scored thewinning basket with less than a second left against archrival Foothill High."A lot of people think it would be unfair if he had two arms," saysJohansen.

This year, as avarsity starter, Kevin blocked the first five shots in a game againstLivermore. He leads the strong East Bay Athletic League with seven rejections agame. No one escapes the Long Arm of the Laue.

He runs the floorlike a gazelle. "He shoots free throws like he's pitching dimes into platesat the fair," says Collins. Kevin is averaging four points and fiverebounds while playing 23 minutes a game. But he's only 16, with a soft hook, a10-foot jump shot and another inch and a half to grow. "Can he play D-II orD-III?" says Collins. "Absolutely."

What's more, Kevinhas a 3.5 GPA—and a course load that includes algebra and ceramics, in which heworks the potter's wheel like Demi Moore in Ghost. Teammates marvel when Kevinbuttons his shirt. His shoe-tying is performance art. He cuts meat like aBenihana chef.

"The onlything that really bothers me," he says, "is that I won't have a lefthand [for a wedding ring] when I get married."

And that's all.There's only one thing you can do for Kevin Laue that he can't do for himself:applaud.

If you have acomment for Steve Rushin, send it to rushin@siletters.com.

Kevin's lone, oversized hand is known as the Mitt.With it he catches passes, makes steals and gathers rebounds.

PHOTOMARTY NEWELL

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)