Jaspers help fulfill Laue's hoops dream

NEW YORK -- Kevin Laue knows what would happen if a college basketball team took a chance on him and he didn't pan out. Fans would wonder what the coach was thinking in using a scholarship on a center missing his left hand.

"It's a business," the 6-foot-10 Laue said. "Their jobs are all on the line. It's much safer to take a two-handed guy my size that got beat by me."

But Manhattan College's Barry Rohrssen figures coaches take chances all the time. He'd rather take one on Laue, whose left arm ends just past the elbow. So last week, the Division I school signed the center, and Rohrssen is confident his work ethic will rub off on other players.

"We take chances on kids who have poor academic histories, who have disciplinary problems both on the court and off the court," Rohrssen said Tuesday. "We give opportunities to players who don't appreciate them, who take them for granted. For all the right reasons, Kevin deserves this chance, and he should make the most of this opportunity."

A native of Northern California, Laue played a postgraduate season for Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia this year, hoping to impress college recruiters. Coach Fletcher Arritt said Laue averaged about 10 points and five rebounds, competing against many Division I prospects.

When Laue was born the circulation in his left arm was cut off by the umbilical cord. He uses his upper arm to help receive passes, and his large right hand allows him to easily palm the ball.

"He can run as well as anybody," Arritt said. "He can jump as well as anybody. You don't need two hands to block shots around the basket."

As the weeks went by, Laue was starting to wonder whether he would ever realize his dream of playing Division I basketball. He said Wofford and Colgate expressed interest but neither had an available scholarship.

"I still had faith," Laue said. "But I was at the point of being like, 'Man, when is this going to happen?' "

Rohrssen had been aware of Laue before he enrolled at Fork Union. The coach needed to recruit size with the graduation of the Jaspers' starting center, but what really worried him after wrapping up offseason workouts this month was his returning players.

"Some coaches may say, 'We need a shooter,' " he said. "My feeling was our team needed a stronger work ethic."

Manhattan contacted Laue just over a week ago. He signed with the team Wednesday.

"He possesses certain skills as a basketball player that are very good," Rohrssen said, "and he demonstrates qualities that will make him successful off the court in terms of in the locker room, on campus and in the classroom."

The Jaspers went 16-14 last season, 9-9 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Baseball's Jim Abbott, born without a right hand, forged a successful major league pitching career. Basketball, though, demands far more actions requiring both hands than pitching.

"Playing hard is a skill," Rohrssen said. "Doing it consistently is another skill."

Laue's story has already inspired many, and he knows that coming to New York will provide him with an even bigger stage. But he's confident his impact will be felt on the court, too.

"I'm a risk. Coach Rohrssen was willing to take it," Laue said. "He has no reason to worry."