As soon as Hansel Emmanuel began to weave in from the right wing, his Northwestern State teammates started to stand up. When he dribbled between two defenders for a stylish layup, most everyone in the gym joined them.
The freshman with one arm was finally on the board.
And a minute later 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 — that 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 can’t give up.”
The 19-year-old Emmanuel, who lost his left arm just below his shoulder in a childhood accident, wound up scoring five points. He was 2 of 3 from the field and 1 of 5 from the foul line, along with two rebounds in eight minutes.
Emmanuel had played in four previous games for the Demons this season, shooting 0 for 2 with one rebound.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Emmanuel was 6 when a pile of cinderblocks fell on him. The damage was so severe, doctors had to amputate his arm.
Emmanuel later moved to Florida and became a big scorer in high school. He drew interest from Memphis, among other colleges, and became an internet sensation last year for his highlight videos posted to social media.
The Demons (8-2) were well on the way to their seventh straight win when Emmanuel started to drive toward his first points. He smoothly cut to the hoop for his layup with 2 1/2 minutes left.
With slightly over a minute to go, Emmanuel was fouled and made the first free throw. He missed the second shot but corralled a loose ball just beyond the foul line, took one dribble and threw down a high-flying dunk.
The slam made it 89-70 and brought Emmanuel’s teammates and the crowd of 1,627 to their feet again for an even longer cheer.