Earning His Spot: Hansel Enmanuel’s rise to starting five
NATCHITOCHES, La. (KALB) - Perhaps one of the most well-known players at any level of basketball is Hansel Enmanuel.
The one-armed phenom captured the hearts of many with his overcoming story to make it to the Division I level despite having his arm amputated at a young age. The thunderous dunks and wicked handles with one hand sparked the rise of a social media sensation. Enmanuel’s highlights were posted to just about every major sports social media during his time in high school and the Drew League.
With the spotlight on him, many were surprised when he chose to commit to Northwestern State and first-year head coach Corey Gispon. The Demons had not had a winning season in seven years prior to Enmanuel’s arrival.
However, early on, Coach Gipson made it clear that Enmanuel would be treated just like any other incoming freshman and that’s to earn their spot on the roster.
Enmanuel did not appear in the first two games of the year and did not score his first collegiate points until the Demons’ ninth game of the year. Slowly, but surely, Enmanuel earned more playing time as Northwestern State started gaining national attention for the entire team’s success.
For the last half of the season, Northwestern State was either tied for first or was in second place in the conference standings. With every game being a must-win situation, Coach Gipson felt his freshman phenom had earned the right to start. Enmanuel made his first career start on February 23 in a win over UIW. Enmanuel scored two points, but also grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots.
Enmanuel would then start the remaining four games of the season, including the Demons’ Southland Conference Tournament semifinals and championship games.
“Is he a defender or what?” asked Coach Gispon following NSU’s game in the SLC Championship. “I think some people thought he was just here for a dog and pony show. I don’t know a player in sports period that has more pressure on himself and herself more than him. He’s a global sensation. He came to Northwestern State and did not get any playing time at all, but he worked and got himself into the starting lineup.”
Enmanuel has shined bright when the lights are shining the most on him and will be expected to continue that level of play heading into his second season in Natchitoches next year.
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