PERRIS (CBSLA.com) — A 17-year-old high school basketball star is causing a lot of hoopla these days.
Joe Richard is a standout on the court for Perris Citrus Hill High in the Inland Empire.
KCAL9’s Crystal Cruz reports that this gifted athlete has all the right moves.
Richard is also getting attention because he’s playing on a prosthetic leg.
“I love playing basketball,” he told Cruz, “I just want to be out here, no matter what.”
His coach, Tim Hatch, concurs.
“Joe has a great motor. He’s always on the run, always moving, he never stops playing,” says Hatch.
The coach, in fact, says Richard is one of his team’s best.
He has never let the fact he’s playing on a prosthetic leg hamper his game.
In fact, he says most opposing players don’t realize his right leg — amputated below the knee — isn’t real.
“They don’t know until they get really close to me,” says Richard, ” I get a lot of compliments like ‘Oh wow’ and ‘You’re really good.'”
Richard’s ankle and foot were amputated when he was just 15-months-old. He was born with tibial agenesis, a rare and congenital condition that caused a bone in his leg to not form correctly.
Camilla Wright’s baby came home with a cast.
“I did it at a young age so he could grow up and be used to it, instead of prolonging it. Probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” said Wright.
His mother recalls that from the outset, her son wanted to play ball.
In his most recent game, Cruz reports he got 17 rebounds — rather impressive.
Also impressive, Richard’s grades. The 6 foot 4 inch, 170-pound senior currently carries a 3.5 GPA.
His mom always told him he can do anything he puts his mind to.
“I’ve always told him, ‘The sky’s the limit.’ Just stay focused, if there’s something that you want to do, just stay on it,” says Wright.
Richard doesn’t give his missing leg much thought.
“If you’re amputated, you still do what you love,” he says.
The young basketball standout told Cruz he plans on going to Haiti — to show kids who lost legs in the 2010 earthquake that they must also stand tall and not let amputation define who they are.
He also told Cruz he plans on playing for a college team and then ultimately turning pro.