Basketball is a sport that requires a lot of skill at handling a ball. Athleticism is a big part of that natural talent, but a player's natural flexibility and reflexes with their hands come into play significantly as well.
That's what makes Nimitz (Texas) High star Jesse Landry so unique: She excels with just one hand.According to a profile by Houston Chronicle reporter Jenny Dial, Landry has found ways to work around the lack of a hand -- she was born without a right hand because of a condition known as congenital amputation -- by perfecting a single-handed shot and using her right arm for support. She is known for being particularly fast and agile, and quickly found her niche on the Nimitz squad.
"Jesse was playing, and I noticed that she was pretty good right away," Nimitz coach Debbie Jackson told the Chronicle of the first time she saw an eighth-grade Landry. "I didn't notice she was missing a hand until about five minutes into the game. She just moves so well and plays so well that you just don't notice.
"She is an instant offensive spark for us. She shoots really well, and she is so fast, so she gets our offense moving."
The fact that Landry is so smooth she can disguise her handicap is a testament to her upbringing. The high school senior was adopted by Ron and Anne Landry when she was two days old, after an original adoptive family backed out of its agreement. The Landrys both work for an adoption agency, and have adopted 12 of their 15 children, who are anywhere from 14 to 44 years old.
Jesse joined that raucous family as the youngest girl of a group that included six older brothers. She now credits those brothers for instilling a love of basketball in her youth that has blossomed into a promising high school career.
"I started playing basketball when I was about 3," Landry told the Chronicle. "I started to really like it a few years later, and my brothers would work with me. They didn't go easy on me. They knew I had to work harder than everyone else."
She has, and now opposing coaches are paying for their tentative approach to defending the nominally handicapped guard, who averages seven points and three assists per game, along with an impressive total of 13 steals already this season. From the Chronicle:
Jesse's family enjoys sitting in the stands and watching her baffle people with her talent on the court.
"People are finally realizing they shouldn't underestimate her," Anne said.
Anne said people have doubted Jesse since she was young."
Once during a co-ed church league basketball game, Jesse entered the game, and a woman behind Anne said, "We don't have a chance. We have two girls in the game, and one doesn't even have a hand."
Notes Anne: "Jesse played really well that game. I never said a word. But I enjoyed watching her prove that woman wrong. And she is always proving people wrong. She doesn't have a handicap or a problem, and she doesn't want to be looked at like she does."
Few are making that mistake anymore, thanks to an inspiring sense of perseverance from a teen who may be among the most resourceful athletes in the Houston area.
"I have never had an arm, so I don't feel like I am missing one," Landry told the Chronicle. "This is just how God made me."
- Houston Chronicle