World of Sport

One-armed basketball player inspires millions with skill and bravery

A teenage basketball player has inspired millions across the world after footage of him playing in school matches began flying across the internet.

Why? For the simple reason that Zach Hodskins has only one arm.

The 16-year-old plays for Milton High School in Alpharetta, Georgia, where he is a regular starter against the finest players of his age in the area.

Having only half a left arm never forced the youngster to stop playing the game he loved. By the age of six he had already developed the ability to spin around on the spot quick enough to leave defenders reeling, and he went on to become the star of his junior high school team, averaging 31 points a game before going on to play for Milton, one of the top schools in the area.

And his father, Bob, explains that his son never stopped to worry about the disability he was born with, instead simply getting on with things to the best of his ability.

"Sometimes you want a reason for things," Bob told USA Today.

"There were none. He was born a fully healthy kid just without his other hand. No real reason. We knew that we had to accept it and just live."

These days, Zach gets asked continually how he lost his arm - a question that is fired at him by everyone from team-mates to the college recruiters already talking to him about scholarships after being stunned by his uncanny shooting ability, particularly from long range.

"Everyone wanted to know how I lost my arm, which is nothing new," Zach said of his new team-mates after he moved to Milton.

"Now if you think about it, that's funny because what they don't know is, I never had it.

"So I got a serious face and I told them that it got bitten off by a shark. The look on their faces was priceless. I like that story; makes me sound tougher."

His confidence and good humour even allow Zach to see his missing lower arm as a blessing.

"They say that my shot is more fundamental than kids with two hands because they use their left hand too much to guide their shot," he told a local paper last year.

Zach's modesty belies a ferocious work ethic which has helped him become such a good player.

"I kid you not … his fingertips would all be bleeding (from practicing so much)," added Bob.

"He'd work so hard at dribbling and shooting, and that's not something he was born with. He's learned to overcome anything on the basketball court.

"If you watch him play a full game in AAU, when they trap and press, he doesn't flinch — it doesn't bother him at all."

Zach's team-mate Jazz Felton admitted that he was shocked when he first heard that a boy with only one arm was to join his team - and immediately set about looking him up on Youtube.

"I was amazed at the clips, but it wasn't until I played with him that I really knew he was a great player," said Felton said.

"He can really, really play. Not 'for a guy with one arm' kind of play either. He does everything really well, but he can shoot lights out."

While his team-mates know exactly how good he is, Zach often runs into opponents who underestimate him, or force him to use his partial left arm. Big mistake.

"I've worked on countering that so much that I love when they do that," said Zach.

"It just gives me so much more room to get my shot off. I'm always thinking about counter-moves and working on them.

"I know that people who don't know me sleep on me when I walk on the court. They don't think I can play or they don't know what to think, but it's when I hit those first few shots or when I go by them is when they wake up.

"That's when they start playing me hard. That's what I love. I know I've just earned their respect. That's all I want."