7th grader without legs goes viral after showing basketball prowess at Illini game


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

The three-pointer he shot 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.

 Hayes said, “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.”

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.

Hayes lost both of his legs after contracting Meningitis at age one.

A procedure the doctors did not think he would survive.

One that has not stopped him from sharing his charismatic personality with everyone he encounters.

Daneille Gray, school counselor said,  “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.”

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

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

Gray said, “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. 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 Hayes, he will be open to embrace any challenge.

And if the Illini gives him another opportunity to play at half-time. Hayes will be ready.

Hayes said, “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 Hayes hopes to hone his abilities further by joining a wheelchair basketball team.


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