7th grader without legs is basketball phenomenon


CHAMPAIGN, Ill — A seventh-grader became a social media phenomenon after the University of Illinois introduced him to the world during a televised game, WRSP reports.

The three-pointer he shot was made more impressive by the odds he had to overcome to get there.

Jojo Hayes has loved basketball for as long as he can remember.

“When I was little, probably six or seven, I started playing and I literally loved it, so I just kept doing what I did and didn’t let it stop me,” Jojo said.

While his skills on the court are nothing new to his classmates, his deep three at the Illini game has allowed more than 200,000 people across social media to see his abilities.

He lost both of his legs after contracting meningitis at age one.

The doctors didn’t think he would survive the procedure.

That hasn’t stopped him from sharing his charismatic personality with everyone he encounters.

“Every now and then, you get one of those students that is so special that you get to be a small part of their life,” said Danielle Gray, a school counselor at Franklin Steam Academy in Champaign.

He sees no limitations despite the challenges that have been given to him.

Jojo Hayes/Student

“I can use my hands. I don’t have legs, but I still don’t let that stop me,” Jojo said. “So I’m guessing that basketball is really the sport for me.”

“He does have a lot of challenges and obstacles in his way, but I think with that mental attitude you can really take on a bigger path in life, Gray said. “He can encourage other kids who have similar disabilities and just let them know a lot of it is your attitude.”

No matter where life takes Jojo, he will be open to embrace any challenge.

And if the Illini give him another opportunity to play at halftime. He’ll be ready.

“I’m going to try, see if I can, get some more fans, even though I already have them. Extra just so they can see me,” Jojo said.

He hopes to hone his abilities further by joining a wheelchair basketball team

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