Kevin Laue, a 19-year-old basketball player, won a scholarship in May to attend Manhattan College this fall. Being recruited for a Division I team is a feat in its own, but Laue has really earned his stripes. A birth injury resulted in his left arm being amputated at his elbow, and he plays basketball with one hand. But being pitted against two-handed players in a prestigious league doesn’t scare Laue, who believes in focusing on his ability — both on and off the court.
Q: Kevin, how are you mentally preparing yourself to play basketball at such a high level, when no other players are likely to have a disability such as yours?
A: I honestly believe that God has helped me get this far, so I hope he still blesses me and gives me the opportunity to to perform my best. But my mental mindset consists of telling myself that life is short, and this opportunity is once in a lifetime. So I need to absolutely leave 100 percent on the court, no matter what, because I’ll never get to live these moments again.
Q: Do you think the other players will treat you just like any other abled-body player? Is that a good thing or bad thing?
A: I hope they do, because I see my disability as a hurdle that I have already jumped. If others are easy on me, or treat me differently because of it, it’s like I need to turn around and re-jump that same hurdle over again. If you have a disability, you can’t use it for an easy way out of doing things; it will make you weak. But if others treat you the same as an ordinary person, and you accept it, you will become much stronger in the end.
Q: Is there any particular move for which you have a interesting playing technique?
A: I do [laughs]. I call my short arm a nub, and it ends about six inches below the left elbow. But I don’t have too many nerve endings so I can use my nub, which is sharp and sometimes stuns people — and then make a hookshot or something. There’s no rule against nubbing people, not yet anyway.
Q: If you hadn’t grown to be so tall do you think you would have tried to play another sport professionally? Maybe baseball like Jim Abbott, with whom you’ve been compared?
A: Baseball would have been a good possibility. I played soccer, baseball, and football before basketball. I got into basketball beccause I kept growing, but once I was in it, I fell in love with it. If I hadn’t grown [as tall] I may still have been in the baseball business, and I happened to play pitcher and first baseman. Jim Abbott was was my hero when I was a kid.
Q: Have you ever considered assistive technology, such as an artificial limb, or would it just make everything harder for you?
A: I wasn’t very comfortable as a kid with the idea of an artificial limb, but I’m interested now in getting one for when I’m not playing basketball. The i-LIMB is the latest robotic limb out there; I watched a video on one and was blown away. I gotta get me one of those!
Q: Do you have any advice for students who don’t want disability to get in the way of playing sports?
A: First of all, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t succeed. They will tell you that, so just use it as fuel to try harder. Secondly, don’t ever sell yourself short; anyone is capable of coming out on top. Just leave it on the court, track, field, or pool and walk away with no regrets.