A for Athlete


Manhattan’s Kevin Laue inspires on and off the court[]

By Michelle Hiskey http://archive.is/20131014192244/www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/ncaa/resources/latest+news/2011/march/manhattans+kevin+laue+inspires+on+and+off+the+court For NCAA.org

Manhattan Jaspers' Kevin Laue. Even before Kevin Laue began reaching for his dream, what he lacks – a left arm – gained him a purpose.

His dream: To compete in Division I basketball, the first one-armed student-athlete in that sport to receive a scholarship.

Laue plays center for the Manhattan Jaspers (6-24, 3-10), who tonight face Siena in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Championship in Bridgeport, Conn.

His purpose: To carry a message beyond basketball, of empowerment over any obstacle.

His dream of being the Jim Abbott of college basketball remains in progress. He’s played in 21 games this season, starting in three, averaging 5.1 minutes and 1.1 points per game, with five blocks total.

His personal message has far surpassed anything he or his northern California family imagined for him as a baby born without a left arm.

Laue (rhymes with cow) has told his story through ESPN, New York Times, Sports Illustrated, CBS The Early Show and more. A 90-minute documentary, “Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story,” is in the works.

“The attention can be distracting at some times,” he said. “But it’s great to be able to inspire people…. It’s a double-edge sword in that way.”

Laue’s drive to inspire comes from his greatest inspiration, his mother, Jodi Jarnagin. She says his purpose was divinely set when he was in the womb.

During her pregnancy, when Jarnagin visited her ailing grandmother in the hospital, the matriarch remarked, “There is something very special about that baby you are carrying.”

Her grandma died, but inside Jarnagin, her prophecy and wisdom grew with the baby. Anchor yourself in God before life’s storms hit, Mary Flannery Bloodworth had told Jarnagin.

“That was a huge turning point for me,” Jarnagin said. “I would have been overwhelmed by Kevin’s birth if my beliefs weren’t strong or convicted.”

Manhattan Jaspers' Kevin Laue, the first one-armed student-athlete to play Division I basketball. Laue didn’t cry when he came into the world, nearly strangled by the umbilical cord. What kept him alive was the arm wedged under the cord – an arm that never developed past the elbow, an arm that saved his life. “That he had life meant that there was a reason and purpose for Kevin’s birth,” his mother said.

That day was April 13, 1990, or 4/13, a spiritual sign to her. She guided him by a Bible verse, Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

When kids teased Laue about his arm, his red hair (like his great-grandmother’s) or his height, she quoted that verse. Same when she and Laue’s dad split up when he was 3, and again when Laue’s dad died when Laue was 10.

The verse came true as she watched him learn to tie his shoes, button his clothes, disarm strangers by saying he was bitten by a shark, and play basketball by pinning the ball with his left stub.

“You have a greater purpose than I can understand,” she said she told him.

He felt at time the purpose conflicted with his dream. Team inspiration awards were great, but his dream was to be player of the year.

Former NCAA student-athlete Franklin Martin coached against Laue in an AAU game, trying to thwart him.

“Make him go left and double team him and see what he can do,” Martin instructed his team. Laue scored 24. “Kids on our team with two hands couldn’t do that,” said Martin, a 1987 Hofstra graduate and former assistant coach at Fordham and Tennessee State.

Having left the college game for filmmaking, Martin became a catalyst for Laue’s dream and chronicler of his unfolding purpose.

Kevin Laue. Martin both trained him for prep school (Fork Union Military Academy) and filmed him. Styled after “Hoop Dreams,” “Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story,” (http://www.thekevinlauestory.com) is almost completed, and they hope it will be shown on ESPN or HBO.

The 157 hours of filming covers Laue’s struggle for credibility and acceptance. Only Manhattan and Colgate recruited Laue, who chose the Jaspers partly for easy access to the New York media.

“I don’t think he’s inspirational just because he plays, but for how he plays,” Martin said. “He looks like Howdy Doody but he plays like a killer… On top of that, he has all the other attributes of a true NCAA student-athlete.

“He’s a kid with a 3.5 (grade point average) who has never gotten into any trouble in his life and does everything right. …Just because he doesn’t have an arm, coaches assumed that if he doesn’t do good, everyone would think they’re crazy.”

Laue’s purpose embraces the ideals of Manhattan, established in 1853 to reach beyond teaching facts to “touch the hearts” of the students, according to the school’s website.

Laue has reached far beyond the campus to touch families dealing with disabilities.

“I love meeting especially the parents of kids with one arm, and they don’t know how to handle it,” he said. “Me playing and performing proves to these parents that their kids are OK, they can adapt to anything. Who’s to say they can’t?”

Comparing his build and game to the NBA’s Pau Gasol, Laue would love to play pro, at least overseas. A business major, he is also interested in screenwriting and acting.

He intends to see the Oscar-nominated “127 Hours,” based on the true story of trapped mountain climber Aron Ralston, who sawed off his right arm to save his life.

“That’s different than me, because he wasn’t born not having it in the first place,” Laue said. “He may never actually adapt to only having one arm.”

Laue’s missing arm and the attention it brings have been that way for so long that he can’t imagine anything different. He just wants those who stare to see beyond what’s missing to the purpose within.

Michelle Hiskey is an award-winning journalist based in Decatur, Ga., and former Duke student-athlete.