After a recent workout, Manhattan College freshman Kevin Laue had a dot of discoloration on the bottom of his right middle finger, and five calluses covered his coarsened palm. They were wounds of overuse; he had dunked 40 times during the workout. "I better not wear this sucker out," the 6'11" center said as he examined the hand. "I only have one."
Laue was born without a left hand. He also came into the world silently, unable to cry because the umbilical cord was wrapped twice around his neck. Doctors surmised that he had been able to survive in the womb because his left arm had wedged between the cord and his throat. That stunted the development of the arm—which is fully formed to the elbow—but it kept him alive. "A hand or your life?" says Laue. "Easy trade."
As a small child Laue played football before picking up basketball in sixth grade. At Amador Valley High in Pleasanton, Calif., he displayed an aggressive streak on rebounds, proved he could hit open jumpers and developed into a ferocious shot blocker. He had his heart set on playing Division I basketball, but only Division II and junior college programs offered scholarships. So Laue enrolled at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy—a school that has produced more than 150 D-I players in the last 40 years—for a postgraduate season. "I wasn't done chasing my dream," he says.
The one-handed man drew attention, but he was no novelty act. Against Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) at the National Prep Showcase last November, Laue—who pins passes with his left arm and right hand—scored 12 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked five shots against a frontcourt that featured players who had committed to Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas. "The only question was whether a [D-I] coach had the guts to pull the trigger," says Fork Union coach Fletcher Arritt.
October 25, 2009
Enter Manhattan coach Barry Rohrssen, who had a scholarship free up when sophomore guard Chris Smith decided to transfer to Louisville. During Laue's official visit last May, Rohrssen took him on the subway to Ground Zero, where he told the 19-year-old, "What happened across the street from here was a tragedy. What happened to you is unfortunate. You'll be judged for what you do with this opportunity."
So far, so good. The Jaspers, who opened practice last week, have little experience in the post, so Laue will be in the mix for playing time. "It's all about adapting right now," Laue said, after completing his first three-hour practice last Saturday. "Just more hard work ahead."