Men's Sports Sports

One-armed superstar Hansel Emmanuel captures the soul of Hoophall

By Joe Arruda

Hansel Emmanuel Donato Dominguez stood off to the side of the court ahead of Life Christian Academy’s game against Wilbraham and Monson on day five of the 2022 Hoophall Classic with a calm demeanor. Emotionless, he walked on to the court, grabbed a ball and went straight to the free throw line. 

He clutched the ball with his right hand and tossed it into the basket. Again and again.

Once he was satisfied from the line, he jumped into the team’s layup lines – showtime. He took the ball, dribbled once and cradled the ball in his right hand. As his head rose to rim level, he completed a 360 degree rotation and flushed it. 

For Donato Dominguez, his right arm represents not only his dominant handedness, but also his future.

When he was just six-years-old growing up in the Dominican Republic, a wall collapsed on him. His father, Hansel Salvador Donato – a former professional basketball player, rescued him from underneath the rubble. The result of the accident was that his left arm would need to be amputated just below the shoulder. 

Hansel Emmanuel on Day 5 of the 2022 Spalding Hoophall Classic presented by Eastbay. (Joe Arruda/The Student)

His right is all he has, and his right is all he needs.

Hoops mixtapes and highlight reels have gone the distance on social media, garnering Donato Dominguez attention from around the world. His own Instagram, which has over one million followers, consistently shares his basketball highlights almost always with a motivational caption.

Motivation and inspiration is all-encompassing of his personality. On the court he appears calm, but focused – reserved, but intense. And when he gets in on the action, jaws hit the floor in the stands.

“I always ask God – I want to be somebody big. And that’s pretty much what’s going on right now. I’m very happy for everything that’s going on right now in my life, and that’s what I do,” Donato Dominguez said, translated by an assistant coach.

“I received (messages) that I’m an inspiration to (people in a similar situation) – an idol basically, and I give God thanks for all that (…) I was a kid once and I had idols so I feel very happy for that and to be able to inspire so many people.”

The opportunity to play at the Hoophall Classic, broadcasted nationally on ESPNU, will allow his story to touch countless lives. 

“I was real emotional, real happy, to be able to have an opportunity like this for the school and myself as well. Didn’t come out with the victory, but gotta keep moving forward and keep playing,” he said through the translator.

Hansel Emmanuel takes a shot on Day 5 of the 2022 Spalding Hoophall Classic presented by Eastbay. (Joe Arruda/The Student)

Getting to this point, playing high school basketball on a national stage, will not be the peak for the one-armed superstar. In August, 2021, Donato Dominguez received his first Division I offer to play basketball at Tennessee State University. 

“(I’m) focused right now on the next level, obviously to go to college and eventually into the league,” he said.

Wherever he goes, the inspiration will follow. When stars typically walk into Blake Arena during the Hoophall Classic, the arena erupts. Fans have their eyes fixated, phone cameras focused and scream for their attention. When Donato Dominguez entered the Arena on Monday only two of the three were true. 

Phones were out, eyes were on him, but it was relatively quiet. Everyone sat and watched with their souls fulfilled – a kid with one arm, balling out with some of the nation’s top recruits, just trying to continue playing.

Joe Arruda/The Student

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