Perfectly timed to coincide with the start of basketball season: the release of Franklin Martin's Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story, billed as "Hoop Dreams meets Murderball," with a healthy shot of Linsanity (now playing) to boot.
Martin spent four years following the Pleasanton-raised Laue, who was born with a left arm that ends just below his elbow. We see the budding hoops star — an honor student at Amador Valley High School as the film begins — mature from tousle-haired teen standout to Division I hopeful, refining his skills at a tough Virginia military academy along the way.
Laue is commandingly tall (nearly seven feet) and naturally gifted (despite, as all his coaches agree, also being naturally left-handed). He's also appealingly self-deprecating, which makes him an ideal doc subject. But college scouts are hesitant to take a chance on a kid with just one hand — even though game footage makes it clear that Laue's disability has no bearing on his ability to block shots and capture rebounds.
It's frustrating, to put it mildly, especially for a kid whose entire life seems to revolve around basketball, but Laue is (for the most part; military school's strict rules do inspire a few rebellions) willing to work harder than any other kid to keep up with the competition. He's driven not just by his own dreams, but also nagging regrets over not saying a proper good-bye to his father, who passed away from cancer when Laue was 10. It's clear he views his athletic success as a tribute to his dad.
Long Shot could have benefitted from interviewing more of Laue's teammates — what's it like to play with someone with just one hand, whose abilities are underestimated by nearly every opponent? — or even some of his friends. We see him attend one post-high school beer bash and hear a few offhand comments from his classmates. But beyond that, Long Shot focuses on Laue, his family, and his coaches (all of whom seem to be cut from the same gruff-yet-secretly-kind cloth).
Still, sports stories don't come more inspirational than this, and locals who recall Laue's rise to national prominence — including coverage in Sports Illustrated which attracted the attention of then-President Bush — will especially enjoy this inside peek at his hard-won success.
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