Likas | Despite his 'disadvantage,' Forman has earned a role with hard-to-beat Vikings

Likas | Despite his 'disadvantage,' Forman has earned a role with hard-to-beat Vikings

DANVILLE — Javion Forman possesses a disadvantage.

His word, not mine.

The Danville junior was born with a right arm that ends at the elbow. Neither he nor his high school pals believe this constitutes a disability.

Watching Forman play basketball for the Vikings, one can understand why.

Standing 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds, Forman is a natural hoopster.

He's created a smoother shot than many two-handed folks could ever hope to. He plays better defense than some NBA athletes. He's not afraid to have his voice heard across the floor.

Forman isn't defined by missing part of an arm.

Even so, it's hard not to be impressed by his perseverance.

"It's funny, (his teammates) are like, 'Why are they doing an article on Javion?' Because they don't even think about it," Danville coach Ted Houpt said. "They forget, when you see somebody else for the first time, you can't help but wonder what it's like to have the challenges that he faces."

★ ★ ★

The 17-year-old Forman has lived in Danville his entire life. And he's been without a complete right arm just as long.

Asked if he knows why he was born with one hand, Forman doesn't dive into a medical diagnosis.

"God made me this way," he said.

It didn't take Forman long to recognize there was nothing he could do to change his reality. He began adapting to it.

This helped him gain an early level of maturity, as well as plenty of friends.

"My peers, they always accepted me for who I was," Forman said. "Kids, they'd question me, but that's what kids do. It was never a hard time adjusting."

Vikings junior Jayrin Parker has called Forman a buddy since kindergarten. That means they journeyed together into the ranks of youth athletics.

Forman wasn't about to only play soccer because of his right arm, either.

"He was a kid that wanted to do everything everybody else did," Parker said. "If you tried to put him down, he'd always say, 'No, I want to do it. I'm going to do it.'"

Forman first picked up basketball through the Danville Dustbowl Tournament, though his inauguration in school-related hoops didn't come until fourth grade.

It was easy for Forman to picture himself traversing the hardwood. His father, Johnathan, played prep ball in the same city.

"My dad inspired me to play," Javion Forman said. "I always had a ball in my hand. I even had a little basketball hoop on my (bedroom) door when I was a kid."

★ ★ ★

If Forman wanted to make himself a force on the court, he'd have to prove his disadvantage made him no less valuable then any of his counterparts.

That started with perfecting his shot.

Really, it's no different from that of many other young men. Forman doesn't hoist the ball with only his left hand. Instead, he utilizes the end of his right arm as a second hand.

Finding his form wasn't an overnight process, though.

"It was maybe middle school, sixth grade," said Forman on when he first felt comfortable with his shot. "I focus on shooting. Everything else is going to come."

Forman has dedicated plenty of time toward sinking buckets, both alone and with his dad. But the younger Forman has an extra source of inspiration.

That comes from Zach Hodskins.

The former Florida men's basketball walk-on has a similar physical appearance to Forman, just with his left hand missing instead of his right.

Hodskins spent the 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns with the Gators, and Forman has consulted online videos of Hodskins' shot.

The fact Hodskins rose to the Division I level provides further motivation for Forman.

"I hope I can really play college ball," Forman said. "Hopefully, after this year, I can get a couple offers."

If, after Forman's high school graduation, he can latch on with a program, Houpt believes it'll be receiving a valuable asset.

"He's a good defensive player," Houpt said. "On the sideline, he's always alert, paying attention, asking questions, pointing things out. Then, when he gets in (a game), he works his tail off."

Forman acknowledges there's still work to be done. He especially wants to improve his dribbling.

"It's kind of hard going right, but that's what I practice," Forman said. "I just practice ... doing stuff that other people do that have got two hands."

★ ★ ★

Forman doesn't land a ton of varsity minutes right now for the state-ranked 16-2 Vikings.

This doesn't bother him. It just makes him itch to put in more time on the court.

"This has been the best team in a long time," said Forman, lumping the 2018-19 outfit with the also-successful 2017-18 group. "I just appreciate this team. I love all these guys. They make me want to get better each and every day."

Forman's love is returned by the other Danville athletes.

"That's my boy, man," junior Robert Stroud said. "He always kept me together."

"Me and Javion, we're family," sophomore Devin Miles added. "I've been knowing him since he was a young one. ... That's my blood."

These kids respect Forman's basketball abilities as well.

"When I first met him and saw him on the court, I didn't think he could do that much," sophomore Nathaneal Hoskins said. "But when I saw him play, it was a whole different perspective."

"He's a good player. He's got great heart and potential," senior Taevon McClyde added. "I seen this guy come up from a little guy into a big guy."

One thing I still was questioning after watching some of the Vikings' Wednesday practice was Forman's nickname.

Especially during the workout-ending halfcourt heave session, teammates would lob the title at Forman, urging him to drain a lengthy shot. (He narrowly missed on two occasions.)

"I made my Snapchat name Chief Kuku," Forman explained. "So one day, my friend Robert Stroud, he just started calling me (that) at practice. I guess that's what they want to call me."

Forman truly is just one of the gang. Always has been.

He's not defined by his disadvantage. He's defined by a 3.1 GPA. By making sure he attends church every Sunday.

And by being a dang good basketball player.

"When you first see him, you think, 'Wow, he's playing with one arm, and he's playing well,'" Houpt said. "Your first reaction is it's amazing, and you feel sympathy.

"But as you stay around him longer, you don't see that. You don't feel sorry for him, because he doesn't feel sorry for himself."

Preps coordinator Colin Likas can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at@clikasNG.

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