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Above: Kevin Laue.
Below: Todd Slater '97; Richard ’81, Paula, and Jacob McIlveen '18 with Laue.

One-armed basketball player inspires Alumni & Family Weekend guests

There are a number of wonderful things happening in Kevin Laue’s life, but that’s not usually what people notice when they first meet him.

Laue, who measures 6 feet, 11 inches tall, played basketball for Manhattan College — the first Division I basketball player with only one arm.

During Providence College’s Alumni & Family Weekend, he spoke about the people who helped him reach his goals and encouraged the audience to support the College’s network.

“Alumni, take these kids that are here. Help them as much as you can. Do whatever it takes to make them successful,” Laue said.

More than 1,200 alumni, family, and guests attended Alumni & Family Weekend. The three-day celebration featured opportunities for graduates and parents of current to learn more about the student experience, through Development of Western Civilization colloquia and workshops on study abroad and career development. A pep rally was held before the basketball game against DePaul University and men’s hockey played two games against the University of Notre Dame. Attendees also enjoyed “Dinner with the Dominicans” Saturday night and Mass on Sunday followed by a jazz brunch.

More than 200 accepted students and their families who applied by early decision or early action deadlines also came to campus to learn more about PC through the Office of Admission’s Spotlight Providence program.

Laue was invited to campus by Todd Slater ’97. The co-founder of Slater Brothers Entertainment, Slater was the executive producer of Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story, a 2012 documentary about Laue’s life.

“It feels good to be back, and to be back with such a good friend in Kevin,” Slater said before the talk. “To really see the impact Kevin has on people — it’s terrific.”

The College community has been examining disability issues this year through a series of programs and events that began with the Freshman Common Reading Program book selection, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

Laue’s experience exemplifies some of the lessons students learn at PC — a lesson that stems from athletics, said College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80 in opening remarks.

“One of the things we want to teach our students is how to contend, how to compete, how to be successful,” he said.

Laue was born without a forearm or hand — just what he refers to as his “nub.” But that didn’t stop him from achieving his athletic goals — nor did his parents’ divorce when he was 4 or the death of his father to cancer when he was 10.

The California native started playing sports early but was cut from the seventh grade basketball team “because I was really bad,” he said. However, “I did not want to quit,” Laue said. 

He was already towering at 5 feet, 10 inches. “My arm is so strong, because I use it all the time,” Laue said.

His mother took him to another community in a rougher neighborhood, where the coach placed him on a travel team with high school students.

“He worked me every day,” Laue said. And he got better, inspiring Division I basketball dreams. His coach encouraged him to use his nub both in the game and to combat the teasing from his older teammates. 

A documentary team started following him, a relationship that would continue for seven years. Sports Illustrated profiled him as well.

Then, during his senior year, he was invited to meet then-President George W. Bush. It was a fateful day, because that night, Laue broke his leg during a game.

After the injury, the Division I recruiters disappeared. “I was going to achieve my dream, but that went away,” he said.

His coach convinced him not to quit by introducing him to a second-grader who was also missing an arm and was being bullied at school. Laue was the star of an assembly at the child’s school, and overnight the bullying stopped. The experience inspired him not to give up on basketball.

 

A new start

 

Laue enrolled at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, which had a very selective basketball program. The coach taught him to be an offensive player by spending hours watching footage of, and practicing, Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s hook shot.

But despite his skills, he didn’t have any college offers. Laue’s coach encouraged him to remain positive, and ultimately Manhattan College invited him onto its team. 

“The greatest part about it was that although I had achieved my goal, signing that letter of intent was only the beginning,” he said.

Laue was able to go on a mission trip to Uganda and coach the national team there. He met his hero, Abdul Jabbar, during an alumni event. And he is godfather of the son of a Manhattan College graduate whose son was born with one arm just before Laue joined the team.

The 23-year-old admitted that the experience would have been easier if he had known the end result from the start. But given the chance, he said he wouldn’t change his circumstances.

“People ask me sometimes, ‘Do you ever wish you had two arms?’ If you gave me a left hand on a silver platter I wouldn’t take it.

“Do you ever fantasize about being in the NBA with two arms? What I do fantasize about is where I’d be without all the people in my life who helped me.”

That includes his mother, who knew everything happens for a reason; his coaches, who taught him to use what most considered a weakness as a strength; and Slater, who produced the film. 

Jacob McIlveen, an early decision enrollee, loved Laue’s talk. “He was so inspirational,” McIlveen said. The North Andover, Mass. resident, who plans to major in elementary education and special education, is continuing a legacy at PC — his father is Richard McIlveen ’81 and his sister is Courtney McIlveen ’12.

“He was truly humble, right from the heart,” said Carolyn Lotsbom, mother of Brian Lotsbom ’16 (Walpole, Mass.). “Every word he said, he just captured the crowd,” said David Lotsbom.

“I stopped myself from crying a few times,” said James Carroll, father of Patricia ’11 and Claire Carroll ’14 (Merrick, N.Y.) “I could see how his message could really be a strong message for anyone dealing with any kind of issue.”

Susan Carroll agreed and said it was a valuable lesson for her 12-year-old son and his 14-year-old nephew. “You take for granted you can just go out and play and do whatever you wanted to do,” she said.

—  Liz F. Kay

 
 
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