One-armed basketball star Hansel-Emmanuel Donato at an event in the Peoria area

WASHINGTON – There’s no point in listing things Hansel-Emmanuel Donato can’t do on the basketball court.

It is more appropriate to list all that the 6-foot-6 senior of Life Christian Academy (Florida) can do as a one-armed player attracting the attention of Division I college programs and has a Tennessee State Offer.

Here is a list of Donato’s basketball skills. It is probably not complete.

Dribble. To pull. Soak. Past. Rebound. Play defense. Block blows. Take out the box. Execute his team’s offense.

Donato makes up for what he lacks physically – he only has his right arm – with quickness, a deep understanding of basketball and a love for his teammates and coaches.

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Oh, and help from above.

“What Hansel is able to do in basketball is a gift from God. You can’t believe it when you see it. It’s not normal,” said coach Moises Micael-Cruz.

“We don’t change anything in our offensive or defensive games because of him,” said Micael-Cruz. “I don’t see him as a one-armed basketball player. He actually looks like he has four arms.

“The opposing teams have stopped forcing him to go to his left when he has the ball. It doesn’t work.”

Life Christian Academy player Hansel-Emmanuel Donato makes a layup as Rabun Gap players block him during the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions on Wednesday, November 24, 2021. LCA Lions beat Rabun Eagles 66-63.

Every time Donato touched the ball on Wednesday night in a Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions game against Rabun Gap-Nacoochee (Georgia) at Torry Gym – even during pre-game and half-time warm-ups – the crowd buzzed at first and often roared.

The loudest roar came at the end of the first quarter as Donato deftly dribbled behind his back to get around a defender and headed for the basket for a layup.

He scored 13 points and had five rebounds and five steals as Life Christian Academy, with just eight players on its roster, led the entire game en route to a 66-63 victory.

Angel Montas, a 6-6 bulldozer recruited by 16 Division I colleges including Illinois, scored 30 points and took 10 rebounds. Breylin Garcia, 6ft 7in, contributed 18 points and 15 rebounds to the victory of Life Christian Academy.

The soft-spoken Donato appreciates his teammates.

“They are like a second family to me. I trust them on and off the pitch,” he said in Spanish through a translator from his team’s traveling team.

Christian Academy head coach Moises Micael-Cruz kisses Hansel-Emmanuel Donato after the senior player steals the ball from Rabun Gap during the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions on Wednesday, November 24, 2021. LCA Lions defeated the Rabun Eagles 66-63.

While Montas and Garcia were certainly impressive against Rabun Gap, all eyes of the rowdy crowd at Torry Gym were on Donato all night long. Photographers and television cameramen followed him wherever he went on the court.

The attention didn’t seem to bother him. He often had a smile on his face.

“I try to focus on the game and not on the crowd,” he said. “But I definitely hear the fans and they help give me the adrenaline rush that I love so much when I play a game.”

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Donato’s left arm was amputated when he was 6 after a wall collapsed on him in his native Dominican Republic. His father, a former professional basketball player, pulled him out of the rubble after being trapped for nearly two hours.

Donato left the Dominican Republic for the United States last year so he could play basketball at Life Christian Academy, a Life Assembly of God ministry with a staff of 120 in Kissimmee, Florida.

Life Christian Academy players Angel Montas and Hansel-Emmanuel Donato celebrate after scoring in the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions game against Rabun Gap on Wednesday, November 24, 2021. The LCA Lions defeated the Rabun Eagles 66-63.

While his skills on the pitch are impressive, Donato can do a lot off the pitch as well.

He is a global social media sensation with over 600,000 Instagram followers. His basketball highlights videos are a must-read for his followers.

Immediately after Wednesday’s game, Donato sat down for an all-Spanish interview with a member of the Clutch Sports Media team covering the Tournament of Champions.

Minutes later, Donato was the center of attention during a lengthy autograph and photo shoot for the Life Christian Academy team as hundreds of fans – mostly pre-teens and teens – lined up to get his autograph and take a picture with him in Washington. multipurpose room.

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Dressed in a white cap and a blue trench coat draped around his shoulders, and with an earring with a cross in his right ear, Donato patiently sat down and signed items ranging from programs to tournaments to shoes to cell phone cases.

Christian Academy player of life Hansel-Emmanuel Donato shoots a free throw during the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions game against Rabun Gap on Wednesday, November 24, 2021. The LCA Lions defeated the Rabun Eagles 66-63.

Crouching down, he used his legs to hold the objects still so he could sign them.

It was easier to pose for photos. A lot of photos.

The post-match scene left Micael-Cruz with lasting memories.

“We’ve never seen anything like it after our game on Wednesday night. Never,” he said. “There were hundreds of kids waiting for Hansel and the rest of our players. They were celebrities!

“We are so happy to have been invited to play in this tournament. Everything went well. We felt so welcome.”

Steve Stein can be contacted at (248) 224-2616 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.

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