As soon as Hansel Emmanuel began to sneak in from the right wing, his Northwestern State teammates began to rise. When he dribbled between two defenders for a stylish layup, almost everyone in the gym joined them.
The freshman with one arm was finally on set.
And a minute later on Saturday night, the 198 centimeter tall guard provided the most defining moment of the game – a thunderous dunk in a 91-73 win over Louisiana-Monroe.
“I had to keep going after the layup – it was my first bucket,” Emmanuel said in a quote posted on the Southland Conference school’s website. “I know my family was proud. I had to keep working. You cannot give up.
Emmanuel, 19, who lost his left arm just below his shoulder in a childhood accident, ended up scoring five points. He was 2 of 3 from the field and 1 of 5 from the foul line, with two rebounds in eight minutes.
Emmanuel had played in four previous games for the Demons this season, going 0 for 2 with one rebound.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Emmanuel was 6 years old when a pile of cinder blocks fell on him. The damage was so severe that doctors had to amputate his arm.
Emmanuel then moved to Florida and became a top scorer in high school. He attracted interest from Memphis, among other colleges, and became an internet sensation last year for his standout videos posted on social media.
The Demons (8-2) were well on their way to their seventh straight win when Emmanuel started rolling towards his first points. He smoothly cut the hoop for his layup with 2 1/2 minutes left.
Just over a minute from the end, Emmanuel was fouled and made the first free throw. He missed the second shot but recovered a loose ball just beyond the foul line, took a dribble and launched a high-flying dunk.
The grand slam made it 89-70 and brought Emmanuel’s teammates and the crowd of 1,627 to their feet for even longer joy.