Basketball player with one arm gets rockstar treatment at Washington T of C

·4 min read

WASHINGTON — It's pointless to list the things Hansel-Emmanuel Donato can't do on the basketball court.

It's more appropriate to list everything the 6-foot-6 Life Christian Academy (Florida) senior can do as a one-armed player attracting attention from Division I college programs and has an offer from Tennessee State.

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

Dribble. Shoot. Dunk. Pass. Rebound. Play defense. Block shots. Box out. Run his team's offense.

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

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Oh, and some 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 his coach, Moises Micael-Cruz.

"We don't change anything in our offensive plays or defenses because of him," Micael-Cruz said. "I don't see him as a one-armed basketball player. In fact, it seems like he has four arms.

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

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

The loudest roar came late in the first quarter when Donato dribbled deftly behind his back to get around a defender and flashed to the basket for a layup.

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

Angel Montas, a 6-6 bulldozer who is being recruited by 16 Division I colleges including Illinois, scored 30 points and had 10 rebounds. Six-foot-7 Breylin Garcia contributed 18 points and 15 rebounds to Life Christian Academy's victory.

The soft-spoken Donato appreciates his teammates.

"They're like a second family to me. I trust them on and off the court," he said in Spanish through a translator in his team's traveling party.

Life Christian Academy head coach Moises Micael-Cruz hugs Hansel-Emmanuel Donato after the senior player stole the ball from Rabun Gap during the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. The LCA Lions beat the Rabun Eagles 66-63.
Life Christian Academy head coach Moises Micael-Cruz hugs Hansel-Emmanuel Donato after the senior player stole the ball from Rabun Gap during the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. The LCA Lions beat the Rabun Eagles 66-63.

While Montas and Garcia certainly were impressive against Rabun Gap, all eyes in the noisy crowd in Torry Gym were on Donato the entire night. Photographers and television cameramen followed him everywhere 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 the crowd," he said. "But I certainly hear the fans and they help give me the adrenaline rush 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 he was trapped for nearly two hours.

Donato moved from the Dominican Republic to the United States last year so he could play basketball at Life Christian Academy, a ministry of Life Assembly of God with an enrollment of 120 in Kissimmee, Fla.

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

While his on-court skill set is impressive, Donato can do plenty off the court, too.

He's a worldwide social media sensation with more than 600,000 Instagram followers. His basketball highlight videos are must-see 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 that is covering the Tournament of Champions.

A few minutes later, Donato was the center of attention during a lengthy autograph and photo session for the Life Christian Academy team as hundreds of fans — mostly pre-teens and teens — lined up to get his autograph and take a photo with him in Washington's multi-purpose room.

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

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

Crouching down, he used his legs to keep the items still so he could sign them.

It was easier posing for photos. Lots of photos.

The scene after the game left Micael-Cruz with a lasting memory.

"We've never seen anything like what happened after our game Wednesday night. Never," he said. "There were hundreds of kids waiting for Hansel and the rest of our players. They were celebrities!

"We're so happy we were invited to play in this tournament. Everything has been great. We have felt so welcome."

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: One-armed basketball star Hansel-Emmanuel Donato in Peoria-area event

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