Young basketball players have a lot of bad habits. A regulation ball is too big for most, which is why fourth-grade games typically feature a lot of unwieldy two-handed heaves: It's the only way kids can get the ball to the rim.
If players are lucky enough to have access to good coaching early in their development, proper shot mechanics are among the first fundamentals they'll learn. One coach at a camp in my hometown introduced his textbook shot mechanic lesson by telling campers that his father, a farmer who taught him how to shoot, was missing every finger on his shot hand except his thumb, index, and middle -- at which point the coach stepped to the free throw line and splashed a series of one-handed shots. I remember campers being awestruck. I was, too. The lesson rang clear: If your mechanics are sound, you exactly need three fingers to shoot the ball. No support hand. No grip. Just the right elbow angle, a flick of the wrist, and tons of practice.
For one Alpharetta, Ga., high school star, that lesson is more like a way of hoops life -- and might even land him a spot at one of college hoops' modern powers.
Guard Zach Hodskins was born without the lower half of his left arm because of a birth defect. This would seem to make a basketball career impossible. But not only has Hodskins worked his way to becoming a basketball player -- which would be impressive in and of itself -- he is a very good one, with a tight handle and a picture-perfect jump shot that should be required viewing for every 10-year-old summer camp attendee in the country:
Hodskins' story has already received a fair amount of media attention, but he's not just a heartwarming human interest piece. As Yahoo!'s Prep Rally reported Thursday, Hodskins was so impressive during the 2013 summer AAU circuit -- one recruiting site named him the most impressive prospect among some of the nation's top players at the ScoutsFocus All-American Camp in Charlottesville, Va., in June -- that Florida offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on.
It's not hard to see why.
Playing and excelling at the high school level is one thing. Putting your Division-I prospect defender in a blender just before whipping a spinning no-look pass to a cutter 35-feet down the floor is another. Dude is good.
The Florida offer doesn't include a scholarship, but it does offer the chance to earn one down the line, plus the opportunity to play at one of the premier programs in the country. And according to Prep Rally, both UAB and and Birmingham Southern are considering full scholarship offers. Hodskins is officially in demand.
"When I'm out [on the court], I forget my arm isn't there and just play ball," Hodskins told the News-Herald of Northern Ohio. "Passion and love for the sport helps me overcome all obstacles. To this day I haven't come across anything I can't do."
From shot mechanics to sheer force of will, it's safe to say we all have much to learn from Zach Hodskins.