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Trying To Turn A Dream Into Reality: The NBA Journey of Hansel Enmanuel.

Many athletes are going to experience adversity on their way to greatness. It comes in different forms and affects all of them differently. It can become mentally straining when multiple setbacks occur such as injuries and family tragedies. For Hansel Enmanuel Donato Dominguez, life has been challenging since a young age, but so far he's achieved all of his wildest dreams. Hailing from Santo Domingo located in the Dominican Republic,  he is the son of Katy Dominguez and Hansen Donato. Their son’s way of life changed dramatically at six years old when a cinderblock wall fell on top of his left arm. The damage from the accident was so severe, that the doctors decided it was best to amputate his left arm from the shoulder down. 


The operation would affect Hansel for the rest of his life, but he displayed a positive attitude from the very beginning. After being bedridden in the hospital for six months, he was allowed to return home with his family. His original athletic passion was baseball, but after the surgery, he turned all his attention to basketball. His father was strongly against it at first, and he was justified in his concerns because it was difficult for Hansel to adjust his body after losing a limb. 


Hansel’s equilibrium was off due to less weight on one side of the body, and he would fall to the ground after trying to run a small distance. Even though he struggled to regather his motor skills, his body was still developing, and by 12 years of age, he was already 6 feet tall. His father began noticing the changes in his body and traveled to the United States for Hansel to attend a high-quality training camp. 


The training camps helped sharpen his skillset while also boosting his confidence and by age 14 he was dunking the ball. In the summer of 2020, His life changed after gaining notoriety after posting streetball highlights from his hometown on social media. The notoriety intrigued the local news channel “El Show Del Mediodia” on the Color Vision Network to interview him so more people could find out about his story. 


Katy and Hansen noticed how popular their son was getting and due to his popularity he received a scholarship from Life Christian Academy located in Kissimmee, Florida. The Head Coach of the Lions, Moises Micael, is a former teammate of Hansen and encouraged him to allow his son to move in January of 2021. Shortly after arriving at the school, Hansel began dominating the Florida circuit, and his reputation began to spread even more. More viral moments were produced on the court and the public was in disbelief of his capabilities. 


As the year progressed, The Lions were chosen to compete in the Orlando Winter Showdown, and he averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds during the tournament. He performed at a high level against good competition, and the story of “The Kid with one arm” began to grow even more all over social media. In the summer of 2021, he joined the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and joined the SouthEast Club House Elite. He returned to LCA for the 2021-2022 HS season and led the Lions to the Central Florida Christian Academy State Title. Hansel’s averages were 25.9 points, 11 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 3.4 blocks per game. 


One of his notable encounters during his AAU and highschool days, was the highly anticipated match-up against high school superstar, Mikey Williams. It was entertaining for the fans and both players put on a show for the crowd. Mikey performed multiple dunk highlights and finished with 29 points. Hansel had his moments in the game finishing with 17 points, and Angel Montas led the entire game in scoring with 49 points.


His performances caught the attention of the mainstream media and many big-name brands began to reach out to him for business deals. Gatorade signed him to an NIL deal during the summer of 2022, and he also secured an NIL deal with Adidas as well. At the age of 20, He has gathered various affiliations such as T-Mobile, Dreamer, Oakley, and ZOA. Gatorade made him the face of their ‘Fuel Tomorrow’ marketing campaign and featured him in the ‘Inner Strongcommercial for the campaign. As of 2024, his deals have accumulated millions of dollars, securing a better life for himself and his family. He also has 1.6 million followers on his Instagram and fans can see the celebrities he's met up with throughout his endeavors. 


Everyone was curious how Hansel would transcend to the next level in college, and face better competition who aren’t going to take it easy on him. He received multiple offer letters from D-1 schools but committed to the Northwestern State University Wildcats. Head Coach, Chris Collins, did not give Hansel much playing time and he only got to play 8 minutes per game. This resulted in him averaging 1.7 PPG, 0.5 STLS, 0.3 RPG, and 1.2 RPG for the 2022-2023 season. After just one year at NWSU he decided to enter the transfer portal, and he now plays for the Austin Peay Governors under Head Coach, Corey Gipson


The ultimate question concerning Hansel’s career is whether he is good enough to make it to the NBA. He just transferred to the Governors who have a record of 10-13, and it will be hard to gain the attention of NBA scouts with low team success.  If basketball fans search online, he cannot be seen in any of the future NBA mock drafts (2025-2028) from credible websites NBADRAFTROOM and NBADRAFT.net.


Hansel must show that his transfer to Austin Peay will make a major difference in their team performance so NBA teams can begin to notice his potential. If he can be drafted in a future draft class, the NBA veterans will show no mercy whatsoever. He currently weighs 167 lbs at 6’6, and his build will take extra time to develop more muscle because lifting heavier weights might be difficult due to his disability. On the other side of the spectrum, he will have an outcry of support from his longtime fans. He is already an inspiration to millions, and this would help him skyrocket into superstardom off the court. 


If Hansel is not able to make it to the NBA, he has already changed the trajectory of his entire family's future. He has made himself a millionaire due to his hard work and he could always play overseas to make money as well. The residuals from his deals are constantly profiting and he’ll never have to worry about money again.


The story of Hansel Emmanuel should be an inspiration on how to persevere through adversity, and to never give up when a person dedicates themselves to their dream. From the streets of Santo Domingo to the world stage, he made a name for himself from absolutely nothing. Hansel is undoubtedly a very unique case and it will be extremely difficult to find a sports journey more special than his.  


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