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Tuesday, December 10, 1991
Photo by Urmia kichiilMcm
ECSU's Sam Hanef shows off his skill at pool in the University Center.
Sam Hanef: Just an
By Ursula McMillion
am Hanef sees himself as an ordinary guy, but not everyone
one else in the world treats him that way.
- - Arms buried in his jacket pockets Sam has struck up con
versations with people and then observed them change when he
removes his forearms from his pockets.
• That’s when they see he doesn’t have any hands.
But Sam, a 17-year old freshman from Duriiam, doesn’t let his
lack of hands slow him down. If this fact is a problem for the other
person, he isn’t going to try to make someone accept something that
person has an inhibition about.
“A handicap is a unique part of a person,” he says. “A handicap
can be an advantage a lot of the times. It shows you and others that
you should not take things for granted. It makes you respect life and
Sam, a member of the ECSU track team, plays basketball, shoots
pool, plays ping pong and cuts his own hair. He has a special love for
sports, especially football. He started in the kicker and strong safety
, positions for his high school football team.
“I have pretty much done everything at this point that I ve wanted
to,” he says. “I don’t have any set limitations and I believe that
■ everything I want is attainable. The physical part is small. I just
improvise and do it a different way, but I’ll get the job done.
Sam’s friends on the ECSU campus often inarvel at his abilities.
“When I first saw him I wondered how he did things and how he
would make it through college,” says Phillip Batiste, a sophomore
from Louisiana. “Then I saw him do things and I was simply amazed.
1 walked into his room one day and he was cutting his own hair. I saw
him eating in the cafe and it took me by surprise that he could do
things as well as anyone with hands could.”
■' Phillip’s admiration grew even more when he saw Sam throwmg
and catching a football.
When the two of them are hanging out they usually talk about
Sam’s favorite teams: the Minnesota Vikings, Timberwolves and
Sam’s roommate, Vincent McKmght, still remembers me first
■' time he ever met Sam; it was at football practice during their junior
' year in high school: • ^ u u
“When I saw him kick for the first time, I was surprised that he
could kick so far and then I was reaUy surprised when I saw him
/tjirow the ball. He has a really good arm.”
>1 , McKnight says he doesn’t really consider Sam to be handicapped.
“He does every thing that I do and most things better. He s a better
“I have pretty much done everythm^ at
this point that I’ve wanted to, I don’t have any
set limitations and I believe that everything I
want is attainable. The physical par( is small.
I just improvise and do it a different way, but
I’ll get the job done.”
writer than I am and he helps me with a lot of my papers.”
Sam’s basketball skills are have also gained him respect, says
freshman Tarick Scott. When Scott first met Sam on the court he
thought that he was going to have to take it easy on Sam because of
his lack of hands.
“After the game started I saw that he could really play ^d that I
really had to guard him because he could shoot,” said Tarick.
On ECSU’s campus Sam recalls getting a few “looks” in the
beginning of the semester. He says he isn’t offended by them. Sam
Hanef is no novice at coping with life’s cmel little twists and digs.
Back in grade school and junior high he often got picked on. “The
other children would say ‘you don’t have any hands,’ over and over
because they couldn’t say that I couldn’t do things,” he recalls.
“They tried to remind me of my not having hands in hopes of making
me feel inferior to them.”
In dealing with discrimination, Sam often recalled these words of
advice from his father: “This is who you are. You’re you and they’re
the ones with the problem if they can’t accept you. ’”
Sam understands the inhibitions people have about approaching
and dealing with those who are different.
“I’m the only one who has to live with myself. If I’m happy with
who I am and satisfied with my life, then why should I worry about
what other people think of me? I’m not going to try force people to
understand or come to terms with me.”
To Sam, this problem stems from other people’s inability “ to
effectively deal with unique situations.” He believes everyone
should be treated normally. “Don’t make a big deal about a handicap
or draw attention to something when it’s not necessary. Don’t feel
sorry for anyone especially!”
Sam has never attended any special schools for the handicapped.
His parents did get him to try artificial hands at one point, but Sam
says he does better without them.
“I like to feel whatever I’m touching, and you can’t feel with
Sam isn’t sure about the cause of his lack of hands, because he
was adopted. He has never tried to find his real parents because he
believes that his natural parents gave him up for adoption because of
Although Sam was adopted in Lebanon, he is not sure if he was
actually bom there.
Sam’s father. Dr. Thomas Thompson, thinks Sam was bom in
Egypt; however, his mother, Dr. Dorothy Irvin, “does not agree to
this theory,” says Sam. According to Sam no one is sure about where
he is fix)m because his parents told him an unidentified person
brought him to the adoption agency in Lebanon when he was an
Dr. Thomas and Dr. Irvin were working towards their doctoral
degrees in theology by way of archaelogical studies when they
adopted Sam and his 17-year-old sister, Hilary.
“Most people don’t think I’m white,” says Sam with grin. “They
usually ask me where I’m from or what is my ethnic background.”
Sam considers himself Middle Eastem and checks ‘other’ on ap
plications and other fornis.
He says he’s never tried to look for his parents.
“I don’t see were I’d be getting anything out of it. I am basically
content witii life here and my parents.”
When he was in the fifth grade Sam’s parents divorced, and he
moved with his mother and sister to Durham from Twin Cities,
Minnesota. His mother and sister, Hilary, still live in Durham.
Sam’s career goal is to be a rehabilitation counselor for people
who have suffered a tragedy. He would also like to work with small
children who suffer from birtii defects or have lost limbs.
“I want to be able to help other people solve and deal with their
problems,” he says, “ whetiier they are emotion^ or physical. I thir^
my biggest reason for my desire to be a rehabilitation counselor is
that I believe children with missing limbs or birth defects need to be
able to look up to and relate to someone who can help them.
“I think they can be helped a lot by someone who really knows
what they’re going tiirough. There are things that I can teach them
or talk to them about that most doctors don’t know a thing about, no
matter how long they’ve been in the field.”
Al Tohnson's two dreams: Coaching, finishing college
.... rhristnnher-Newtwrt a new kind of ball game.” As a result ers to the schools before they would god is to be a head coach, and I need
By Rodney Moore
college level, even though he had the
backing of big-time coaches such as
While he was the head Rollie Massamino of Villanova and
coach at Germantown John Chaney of Temple.
Friends High School in Whatwas it thatkept this obviously
. Philadelphia, ECSU’s new assistant great coach out of college coaching.
^ basketball coach, Alfred Johnson, al- Alfred Johnson never finished
I ways stressed the necessity of excel- college.
I,ling academically. “I remember I was up for the coach-
y: He helped get athletic scholarships ing job at Atfred University and eve-
;, ?pr five players to teams such as Vil- rything was in the works for me Jo get
lanova. Brown and Howard, all within the job,” said Johnson. When 1 ms
' five years of being head coach. askedthem about going back to schwl
At Germantown, Johnson’s seven while coaching their reply was, mat
. senior basketball players had a com- would be fine for you to pwsue your
bined SAT average of 1152. Com- masters whUe you coach. But when i
: bined with a 75% winning average told them that it was my undergrMu-
over his coaching career, it would ate degree that I was seeking, theu’
seem that Alfred Johnson would be whole attitude changed,
the perfect assistant or head coach for Johnson’s problems began when
any team in the college ranks. But he graduated from Gemantown
time after time Johnson was turned Friends High School as a basketball
j down for coaching positions on the star. He received a scholarship to play
basketball at Christopher-Newport a new kind of ball game.” As a result
College in Newport News, Virginia. Johnson was academically suspended
Johnson played basketball for three from Christopher-Newport.
years, excelling athletically and so- BasketbaU was no longer a part of
cially but neglecting academics, with Johnson’s life, even though there were
the compUcity of his professors. offers to play professional basketball
Johnson’s attitude changed after overseas. He moved back to Pennsyl-
his close friend Tim Claxton, a signee vania, where he got married in 1986.
of the Atianta Hawks, died suddenly He got a job managing a computer
of a rare heart disease. store. He was making a lot of money,
Claxton’s death caused Johnson to but was not completely 'happy. He
look at basketball in a different light, wanted to coach, which meant he had
Basketball was no longer a sport for to get his de^ee.
the invincible: it had lost its luster and “My family had always stressed
now was “just another thing.” education and I felt like I needed to
Deciding that basketball was not finish my education,” he said,
worth the effort anymore, Johnson Johnson searched for a coaching
quit the team in 1981. job that would allow him to coach
“All of a sudden professors started while completing his education,
cracking down on me after I had quit ‘There were a couple ofttffers from
the team,” said Johnson. “I had fooled predominantly white colleges, but they
around in classes and the professors were just giving me Up-services. They
didn ’ t care. But as soon as I quit, it was wanted me to help recruitW)me play-
give me a job.”
During Johnson’s search, he re
ceived a call from ECSU Coach
Claudie Mackey. Mackey wanted
Johnson’s help in recruiting players in
the Philadelphia area.
“Mackey wanted to know why I
didn’t have a coaching job, so I told
him aboutmy situation,” said Johnson.
Mackey, impressed by his back
ground, conferred with Chancellor
Jenkins about giving Johnson a job.
“Coach Mackey gave me the op-
pormnity here to do what I love, which
is coaching and continuing my educa
tion at the same time,” said Johnson.
“He believed in my coaching abilities
first and foremost and in what I could
do for him as a coach instead of what
I could give him up front (players).
“I am very grateful to Coach
Mackey and Chancellor Jenkins. My
a degree to get into the door. Coach
Mackey and Dr. Jenkins are helping
me through that door.”
Johnson’s advice to potential col
lege or pro basketball players?
“I would tell them that basketball
is a vehicle that will take you to a
higher level and that level is edu
cation. No matter how good you are, it
can all be taken away in less than a
“I knew a young man who had a
great future ahead of him at the Uni
versity of Kansas playing basketball.
One day he and a couple of friends
were trying to beat a train across the
tracks and they didn’t make it Subse-
quentiy his foot had to be amputated,
so he was left with no further oppprtu-
nity at Kansas. So you see ateryou
can’t play ball anymore all you have
left is what is in your head.” *