For Hansel Enmanuel Donato Domínguez, God (and family) is everything.
At 17-years-old, the high school basketball phenomenon has taken the sports world by storm, leaving spectators speechless as he maneuvers on the court with a killer instinct. He dominates the floor, making headlines for his undeniable talent and one-armed status. While a disability may have influenced the world’s perception of his prowess as a basketball player, Hansel has defied the odds and is a great example for any athlete that aspires to play at a professional level. “You have to stay humble,” he says in Spanish.
His faith and unflinching determination to succeed is catalyzed by an accident that changed his life forever: the day he lost his left arm. At age 6, Hansel was playing outside in the Dominican Republic before a cinderblock wall collapsed, trapping him for almost two hours and requiring amputation below the shoulder.
Much of his story lives through a traumatic moment, but that hasn’t stopped the 6-foot-5 versatile guard from earning Division I offers for his unique skillset. He throws down ferocious dunks, blocks shots at the rim and weaves between defenders with poise and grace. His long, slender frame and playmaking ability has made Hansel one of the most admired collegiate prospects in sports today.
Last Thursday, hundreds of people filled the bleachers at Pine Lake Preparatory for the Premier Hoop Invitational in Mooresville, North Carolina, where the Moravian Prep Lions matched up against Hansel and Life Christian Academy. Unfortunately, the game came to an abrupt end after a bloodied Eli Ellis surfaced from a steal attempt turned head-on collision with Breylin Garcia.
Unfazed by the end result, Hansel flashed a warm smile as young fans frantically rushed over for a postgame photo-op with the beloved hoopster. He’s embracing fame with humility, watching his dreams come to fruition and giving thanks to God along the way.
What do you value most?
The most important thing for me is to go to the NBA, take care of my family, and continue helping young people as they helped me – they gave me the opportunity. I want to keep moving forward in basketball, support a lot of people, and keep giving thanks to God, who keeps me going.
For Hansel, what does it mean to have a strong support system?
That means a lot. You know, it’s something special to have support. It’s not the same as being alone, knowing that in reality you don’t have anyone to help you, you understand me. Because at the end, when it’s all done, you’re going to need someone to help you. My family always supports me for the good and bad, no matter the moment.
How do you stay focused when things don’t go as planned?
You know, I can lose my concentration and patience at any given moment, like in today’s game – I got off to a slow start. After a while, I concentrated on doing what I know how and asked God to give me the strength – and I give thanks to him in that moment.
When you think about the word “faith,” what comes to mind?
That word means a lot because in reality, all of us, in the entire world, we should have faith, because faith is the most important thing for you just as much as God. You have to have faith in him. If you have faith, that’s going to help you a lot. Things will work out better for you. A lot of people don’t get ahead because they don’t think God exists – they don’t have faith, understand what I’m saying. And that faith is what I keep: that is me. I believe in myself, especially in the moment I need to most.
Faith keeps you humble.
And I ask God for all that, you understand me. All that (faith) is for the best in this reality. Like that, you are going to get where God allows you. God is not going to put limits on where you want to go if you have faith.
Talk to me about working with J. Cole – how was that experience?
It was a very good experience. We had a connection, we treated each other very well, we talked, everything went well. He treated me very well. He treated my family very well, which is the most important thing. If you treat my family right, you’re going to have a really good connection with me. Thank God we could make everything happen.
What does it mean to be a dreamer?
It means a lot because look at who I am, thank God. I’m not a big deal but I’m known in the United States and around the world. I thank God very much for all of that. It comes from a lot of work and discipline. I focus on that and move on. While you’re on top, you have to stay humble.
How have you adjusted to fame?
It’s not hard, but you know, there are times where I don’t know because at some point normal isn’t normal. You can have a bad day and you’re down, and you know people are still watching. You have to manage your mind.
Who do you listen to before a game?
That’s special to me (laughs) – I don’t tell anyone, but it depends. I have some artists who are Dominican: one passed away, and the other is alive, thank God – but I keep listening to them. Sometimes I listen to Lil Baby, Lil Durk and 42 Dugg.
Now that high school is over for you, the world wants to know, what’s next?
We are going to college.
Can you say where?
No (laughs). Not yet, not yet.
(Javy comments from behind the camera)
We’re going D1 baby.