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Hoops player takes game to new heights despite missing arm


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    DALLAS (KTVT) — Kellen Buffington is the organizer one of the biggest AAU tournaments the North Texas area has seen in a while, with 189 teams from all over the nation having come to play.

In addition, his job is to evaluate the talent for some of the biggest programs in the country. Kellen Buffington says, “Ultimately it’s a lot of work and if you’re not one of the top 25 to 50 players in the country… we need to identify you and spread the word to these coaches about who you are as a player and a person, so they can make a decision about whether they want to recruit you and invest in you.”

At the Drive Nation sports complex near DFW Airport, the action was everywhere. But clearly there was one person who stood out from the rest: 17-year-old Hansel Emmanuel, who plays for the SOH Elite team from Florida.

Passing through the Metroplex, he put on a display you literally had to see to believe.

Ricardo Catala, Hansel’s AAU coach, says, “He’s been a sensation on social media. At first, people may’ve thought it was a gimmick and didn’t know if he could do it against top talent.”

From the Dominican Republic and not having been in the U.S. long, Hansel’s lack of English leaves him uncomfortable doing interviews.

Having his left arm, below the shoulder, amputated when he was a kid is a subject that he feels is old news. But, it’s not old news for the people who marvel at what’s he’s able to accomplish.

His coach explains, “This might be one of his greatest gifts. Sometimes we don’t look at it as a blessing. We never know what he would’ve been if he had both limbs.”

No one will ever forget Yankees pitcher Jim Abbott throwing a no-hitter despite missing his right hand. Or a couple years ago, when linebacker Shaquem Griffin was drafted by the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks despite missing his left hand.

We’ve seen limb deficient athletes excel before. But a high level Division I basketball prospect, missing an entire arm, is unheard of.

Brandon Jenkins, a scout for 24/7 Sports, says, “It’s a testament to his work ethic and how good he is and special he is. I think there’s always room to grow and the skies the limit for a kid like him.”

Now the question becomes can the high school junior, whose dad played professionally, be a major player on the next level in college and beyond.

Buffington promises, “If you work hard and believe in your abilities, you can succeed at whatever level you wanna do it. That kid is gonna find his way on to a Division I college basketball program.”

Hansel’s coach is adamant that “If he’s doing that consistently against these types of guys… Why are we even questioning that? The question should be how high is he gonna go… Not if he’s gonna play Division I basketball.”

Dallas-Fort Worth can thank Hansel Emmanuel for the visit and reminder that life has no boundaries and no limits.

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