‘I Wish People Understood How Different Hansel Enmanuel Is’| Memphis Coach Penny Hardaway Offers D-1 Scholarship To One-Armed Social Media Sensation

(Photo: @TiptonEdits/Twitter)

Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers have underachieved mightily on the court this season, but what they did this past week will bring them many new fans from all over. 

The Tigers offered one-armed hoops extraordinaire Hansel Enmanuel, the 6-foot-6 athletic specimen who currently has over 2.4 million followers on Tik Tok and 1.2 million followers on Instagram. But there’s so much more to Enmanuel than just being a viral sensation. Despite what some would see as a physical disability, the kid can really play basketball. 

When you watch him play, you quickly notice he can do everything on the court that players with two arms can do, and in many cases he does it better.

This is Enmanuel’s third DI offer. He’s already been courted by HBCUs Tennessee State and Bethune-Cookman. There should be more offers flowing now that his national interest is heating up. Recruiting is a copycat game in many ways. 

Over the last year, Enmanuel has become sort of a phenomenon, one of inspiration on and off the court. His story exemplifies perseverance and strength. He represents the underdog and the underestimated, who chose to do what others said couldn’t be done. Enmanuel is not only getting buckets with one arm, but he’s elevated to one of the best players in the country. 

Enmanuel’s Life Changed At Age 6: Freak Accident Took His Arm

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Enmanuel loved to play basketball in the streets of Santo Domingo, inspired by his dad who played professionally and for his home nation. While playing with friends one day, Enmanuel climbed a wall of solid cinder blocks the collapsed and crushed one arm. He was stuck in that position for two hours. 

The accident crushed his tendons to the point where there was nothing doctors could do to save the arm. Amputation was the only option. For a while, the accident also crushed his dream of playing in the NBA like his hero, LeBron James. Hoops became an afterthought as he now had to learn to perform everyday duties minus a limb.

“I didn’t want to do anything. I couldn’t tie my shoelaces, I couldn’t have a glass of water,” Enmanuel told reporters in an interview. 

Not long after his accident and once he accepted his fate, Enmanuel began playing the game he loved again against his parents’ wishes. It wasn’t long before he became comfortable performing on-court tasks with just one arm. Enmanuel worked on his craft day and night, but with no real hope of being noticed in the DR due to poor living conditions and other lack of resources, he videotaped himself. Those videos eventually fell into the hands of coaches in the United States.

Florida HS Coach Sees Videos: Brings Enmanuel To U.S.

In 2020, Enmanuel joined Life Christian Academy, located in Kissimmee, Florida. Under the direction of Moises Mitchell, the team won the Central Florida Christian Academy State Championship. Hansel, showed out, going for 26 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. The performance drew praise from TNT analyst and Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.

 “I wish people understood how different Hansel Enmanuel is,” Shaq said. “He beat some of the best high school players with one arm.”

If Shaq was impressed by Enmanuel’s lethal game, then imagine all of the children around the world that have what society perceives as a handicap. Watching the kid from Santo Domingo crush the hoop dreams of his supposedly “advantaged” competitors can change a person’s entire perspective on life. Society needs an Enmanuel to root for. He’s the type of talent that can have a global impact.  

During the 2021 City of Palms tournament, where he showed out against the country’s best players, Enmanuel talked about his growing social media following in an interview with tourney officials.

 “I feel so proud when I see little kids, and they are a fan of me,” Enmanuel said in a postgame interview. “I was little kid too and I remember that I had heroes so when I see them, I will always know that I felt the same way and want them to know that I appreciate them.”

Enmanuel also shined on the AAU circuit, playing against the best in the country from all over. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the fans that were allowed to participate last spring and summer were treated to some sensational play from Enmanuel nightly at AAU-sanctioned events. 

The viral hooping sensation is also making the rounds with some of rap’s biggest names. Rapper J. Cole, who’s a baller himself, featured Enmanuel in a commercial, and it’s all about his ability to inspire others.

Odds-defiers of this magnitude don’t come around often. They are generational comets that streak through with an unexpected impact that captures the hearts of the common man and pushes the possibilities of human performance.

When the underdog wins, we all win. You’ll be hearing a lot more about Hansel Enmanuel once he decides what university he’ll be taking his talents to.


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