Teen who lost his hands becomes unlikely basketball hero

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Every week he set himself up for disappointment.

Every week, 13-year-old Jamarion Styles came to a community center in Boca Raton, Florida, hoping to play basketball with the other kids.

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Jamarion Styles

CBS News

And every week, he was rejected.

“They would start picking teams and I would be the only one left out. And then they would just tell me ‘just go home.’ You can break someone’s heart like that,” Jamarion said.

The problem was obvious to everyone but Jamarion. He lost his hands -- and most of his arms -- as an infant due to a rare bacterial infection. But he insisted that was no reason to give up his hoop dreams.

What about soccer, where no hands are needed?

“Yeah, I hear it every day,” he said. “You would think that I would be good at soccer. I’m really not. I’m horrible.”

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Jamarion in class

CBS News

Which is why, on the first day of class at Eagles Landing Middle School, Jamarion took his case to basketball coach Darian Williams. He said he wanted to be on the team this year.

“I said, ‘Oh, great, just make sure you try out,’” Darian said.

He said he was really thinking “’This man has no arms. How is he going to play basketball?’”

“But man, he told me, ‘Mr. Williams, I’ve never been on a team before. Even if I don’t play, I just want to be on the team.’ And how could I say no to that?” Darian said.

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Jamarion, number 2, in the Eagles Landing Middle School boys basketball team photo

Eagles Landing Middle School

And that’s how the Eagles got their first armless basketball player. Jamarion, wearing number 2, quickly earned a reputation as the hardest worker on the squad.

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Darian Williams

CBS News

“He was usually the first one in the gym and usually the last one to leave,” Darian said.

Still, he sat on the bench most of the season -- until last month.

Coach put him in the game with about six minutes left. And when he eventually got the ball on the far side of court, everyone yelled, “Shoot it.” So he did, and sank a 3-pointer.

And shortly after, he got the ball again, this time on the near side, and made another 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Jamarion Styles, the kid no one would pick, was now everyone’s hero.

Needless to say, today Jamarion can play all he wants at the community center. He just made the volleyball team and has every intention of playing football next year.

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Jamarion taking practice shots in the gym

CBS News

Really, the only thing he won’t play is the victim.

“If I could wave a magic wand right now and give you your arms back, would you want them?” he was asked.

“I don’t need them,” Jamarion replied.

Who needs hands when you’ve got that kind of touch?

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com. 

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.