John “JJ” Misiewicz
Life is hard enough when you have all your limbs. It just gets much tougher when you are missing an arm. Hansel Emmanuel Donato Dominguez has dominated his high school competition, despite only having one arm. At the age of six, a cinderblock wall fell and landed on his arm. Emmanuel was stranded for two hours and when he was finally found, it was determined his arm needed to be amputated. Despite this, he still committed his life to the sport of basketball and today is a commanding presence for his high school team at Life Christian Academy in Kissimmee, Florida. Recently, he has picked up his third Division I offer from the University of Memphis.
Growing up in the Dominican Republic, he arrived in the United States at the age of 16, after videos of his game emerged in 2020 and got to Life Christian Academy coach Moisés Michell. Once he got a look at Emmanuel’s game, he offered him a spot on the squad. 24/7 Sports has Emmanuel currently ranked as the 26th best recruit in the state of Florida, a three-star recruit nationally. As of right now, Emmanuel is averaging 26 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists a game, and is known for his athleticism, and is a surprisingly good shooter and ball-handler, despite his disability. However, he isn’t the first disabled player to make it onto the main sports stage.
Zach Hodskins was a basketball player who was born with a defect that made him lose his arm below the elbow. Despite this, the 6’2 guard became one of the best players in the state of Georgia, casually knocking down over half of his shots from three-point range and showing off his excellent ball-handling. He took his talents to Florida University in 2014 as a walk-on and, although he was not necessarily a consistent starter there, the times he did get in he showed he had game. Even now, Hodskins plays pro basketball in Germany.
Disabled players have not made their mark solely in basketball, however. Shaquem Griffin has had a similar experience when an accident forced doctors to amputate his left hand as a child. The cornerback earned a Division 1 scholarship to UCF along with his brother, Shaquill. There, Shaquem developed into a real talent and won the 2016 AAC and was a key asset to UCF’s undefeated, 2017 season. Griffin then went on to the NFL in which he was drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks. Griffin still plays in the league today, but for the Miami Dolphins.
While disabled players are not new to sports, the coverage around them is changing with the ever-growing social media platforms of athletes. And with the NCAA allowing athletes to profit off their status through advertisement, awareness around disabilities is now greater than ever. So, in comparison, Emmanuel is quite different from Hodskins, from his build to his skillset to the astronomical amount of support he is receiving. He has around 3.6 million followers from his Tiktok and Instagram accounts combined, and a $1.2 million NIL value, which is 6th among high school athletes. He has even been featured on rapper J. Cole’s YouTube account. In a 41-second video titled “The Audacity II”, if features Emmanuel dribbling a basketball, while an inspirational message is said in the background.
Will Emmanuel fare better than Hodskins at the next level? That remains to be seen. However, Emmanuel seems to have a much more well-rounded game than Hodskins, and if you have the raw athleticism Emmanuel has, success is likely for the young man. With two other offers from Tennessee State and Bethune-Cookman, he has more options than Hodskins already. A successful career for Emmanuel will not only mean an individual dream come true, but also one step closer to proving to the world that disabled athletes are capable of not only making the team or being role players, but also becoming stars.
Contact JJ at firstname.lastname@example.org