PALM SPRINGS, Calif. —
No one cheered extra hard for Citrus Hill (Perris, Calif.)
senior Joe Richard
. But that's both a good and unfortunate thing.
Good because no one notices that he plays with a prosthesis from below the right knee. The 6-foot-4, 170-pound forward is a starter and co-captain who entered Thursday's MaxPreps Holiday Classic opener against Villa Park averaging 6.3 points (fourth on team) and 8.7 rebounds (second) per game.
He had just two points and six rebounds in a 69-43 loss to Villa Park (Calif.)
, but most would agree he deserves a standing ovation.
"Most people and opponents don't even notice," Richard said. "When (opposing players) do, they say ‘you play really good,' and I say ‘thank you very much.' "
Richard, polite and friendly as he is courageous, was born with a congenital condition that deforms the tibia. At 15 months, his lower right leg was amputated and replaced with a prosthesis.
Nine months later, he began playing basketball.
He was as good and natural at hoops as we was learning to use an artificial limb. Kids can be cruel, but he never noticed. "I'd just ignore the negativity," he said.
And nobody took it easy on him either. "Everybody just looked a me as a normal kid," he said. "They didn't feel sorry for me."
Besides, his love for the game shines through. "I just like the crowd and applause and energy of the game. That's the greatest part."
Citrus Hill coach Tim Hatch told reporter Kyle Glaser, in this terrific piece in the Riverside Press Enterprise
, said the best part of coaching is working with a player and kid like Richard.
"Nobody can talk about Joe and keep a straight face because of what he has to overcome and what we see him do on a daily basis," Hatch told Glaser while holding back tears. "It's very inspirational. It's an honor to work with someone like him."Azzam wins 800th gameMaxPreps Holiday Classic preview1 day 'till the MaxPreps Holiday Classic