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Mom, Dad & God nudged star back into basketball after losing an eye

LIBERTY, Mo. (BP)–A few weeks ago, every kid’s dream came true for Larry Hall: He picked up Sports Illustrated and read an article about himself.
The publicity isn’t new for Hall, the heart of the men’s basketball team at William Jewell College. An article in Slam magazine is due out in early April, and Dick Vitale’s “Inside College Basketball” featured Hall last season.
In this season’s edition, Vitale identified Hall as the “one 2 watch” in the entire National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. In both Vitale publications, Hall was selected as a preseason All-American.
Last season, he became Jewell’s fourth first team NAIA Division II All-American. Hall, a 6’3″ center from Keatchie, La., joined the Jewell team in 1997 as a transfer student from Louisiana State University-Shreveport, an NAIA Division I school. After his sophomore year, when he led the nation in scoring — at 29.2 points per game — and was third in rebounding — 13.1 per game — the college dropped men’s and women’s basketball.
That left Hall, the most dominant player in the NAIA, with a whole lot of talent and nowhere to play. Hall had played against Jewell at a holiday tournament in Kansas City in 1996. After talking with Jewell coach Larry Holley, he decided to transfer in the off-season to the Baptist-affiliated college in Liberty, Mo.
Although it may have been hard for the homesick youngster to adjust to life away from his family for the first time, he looked right at home on the court.
Liberty sportswriter Kevin Goodwin summed up Hall’s talent this way: “He is an unrelenting force in the paint, outhustling players four to five inches taller each night. He bangs, pokes and prods for every morsel of room he can get — without consideration for his own welfare.”
When the game’s fate hangs in the balance, Hall is the go-to guy. Sometimes he has been the hero, like the time he sank a shot at the buzzer to defeat Concordia College. Or like the time he scored 42 points in one game. Or like the game when he reached the 1,000-point mark in less than two seasons of play — the fastest player to reach that mark in Jewell history.
Hall’s attitude remains remarkably consistent. “I don’t build myself up,” he said. He credits his success to three forces — his teammates, his parents and God.
“I couldn’t ask for better parents,” he said. “My mom sits by the phone after every game. It doesn’t matter if I have a 42-point game or a 3-point game, she always knows what to say.”
But, ultimately, Hall said God sees him through the ups and downs of being a star athlete. “God gets all the credit. He gave me my athletic ability, and I know my success is possible only through him.”
Lots of athletes thank Mom and God. The difference with Hall is that he means it in a way few athletes do.
When Missouri Baptist Convention President Gary Taylor spoke at Jewell during a chapel service in February, he explained the three facets of dreaming: The dream begins; it dies; then it is resurrected, stronger than before. He could have been talking about Hall’s life.
In Louisiana, Hall was a star at North DeSoto High School, scoring 41 points per game his senior year. As the state’s Class 2A Player of the Year, he had many NCAA Division I programs clamoring for his signature on their dotted line.
He was dreaming of playing for a college powerhouse when life took an awful turn. While working at a local Kmart, he was pushing a line of shopping carts connected by a bungee cord. The cord snapped and hit him in the right eye. He would never see out of the eye again.
The colleges backed off, and Hall’s dream died. “I wanted to give up on everything,” he recalled. “I never thought I would play ball again.” When he was at his lowest point, his parents, Larry Sr. and Rose, with some help from God, rescued him.
“My parents really encouraged me to pick up the ball again. When I wanted to stay in bed, they made me get up and try.”
His road back to the top took a long time. “I doubted my ability,” he said. “Playing was really hard at first; I kept bricking shots and I couldn’t tell where my defenders were.”
But with time and a lot of practice, Hall’s natural ability came through, and he started to dream again. He enrolled at LSU-Shreveport, and the rest is history.
He believes he’s a better player now because of the injury. “I practice all the time, before and after team practice,” he said.
The practice paid off. Hall finished the season 12th in NAIA rankings in scoring, with a 23.19 points-per-game average, and sixth in rebounding, with a 10.56 average, on a team that tallied a 24-11 record. He was selected as the Heart of America Athletic Conference player of the week three times this season.
Now, Hall is hoping for a career in professional basketball overseas after graduation. Eventually, he’d like to work as a youth counselor.
“I feel like I’ve been tremendously blessed. And with some of the things I’ve overcome, I can inspire kids to never give up, no matter how bad the situation seems.”

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  • Carolyn Chapman