Ben Pimlott, a 15-year-old Chinese adoptee born without a fully formed right arm, has earned his spot as one of the starter players for the Cambridge Rindge & Latin freshmen boys’ basketball team after consistently putting on spectacular performances in his games last season.
Using only one able hand, the 5-foot-7-inch guard has been shooting accurately from long range and playing competitively following a breakout performance where he made eight 3-pointers, producing 32 points in total, during a mid-season road game against Bedford, according to the Boston Globe.
Pimlott, who exhibited his affinity for sports at age 5 playing soccer, said he ended up playing more basketball since their home was surrounded by basketball courts and a supportive community.
While he says he doesn’t have a particular basketball inspiration, Pimlott says that he likes watching Jeremy Lin.
“He stood out because he’s one of the only Asian players in the league and his journey interested me,” he told NextShark.
Success did not come easy for the talented player — he actually did not make the school team after his first attempt to join in sixth grade. The young athlete worked hard to improve his ability to catch and shoot with just one hand by spending hours training in the gym for an entire year and finally joined them in seventh grade.
Working out twice a day during the off-season, the Pimlott would stay practicing after others had gone home. He further developed his shooting by spending more time in the gym practicing to use his shorter right arm to steady the ball and using his left arm to shoot.
Pimlott’s hard work paid off — he had a stellar freshman season, earning him a spot on the team’s starting five this season. According to the teen, his accomplishments were made possible by hard work and perseverance.
Occasionally, he would encounter others who are prejudiced against Asians or athletes like him which are rare in basketball.
“People who don’t know me often judge me quickly and assume I can’t play basketball because Asians are not known (in the U.S.) as basketball players and one-armed athletes are rare. People always underestimate me and don’t play me hard at first, but once I start playing, they’re usually surprised.”
His best friend, Khai Smith, currently Cambridge team’s starting center, shared how their opposing team would often underestimate him.
“But then they see what he can do and they respect him,” Smith was quoted as saying. “It shocks me how much he works. He wants it real bad. He wants to prove to everyone that he can play and he works out every day, morning, afternoon and night.”
Pimlott, the youngest of three children, was adopted by single mother Kathy Pimlott from a Chinese orphanage.
“I was adopted as a baby and I don’t think I thought about it any other way than that I had a new family now,” Pimlott said.
He also thinks he and his sisters were adopted was due to the patriarchal nature of the Chinese society.
“I think the reason why my sisters and I were adopted was due to some Chinese people’s belief that women aren’t equal to men. And for a child like me with a disability, parents who are not wealthy may think that we would not amount to anything.”
Yet at his young age, Pimlott already sees himself as an inspiration to others.
“A lot of kids with disabilities or people struggling probably think some things are near impossible but I think I can be an example of someone who can be successful and overcome odds and show others that anything is possible.”
“For Asian kids, the odds are usually stacked against Asians since we are often overlooked,” he said, noting that many assume Asians are not usually thought of as athletes.
In an interview with the Boston Globe, Coach Rodriguez noted that while Pimlott’s disability did make basketball more challenging for him, he asked that he was not given any special treatment or treated with favoritism.
“That mindset has translated really well to the high school level and now he just goes. You really can’t tell he has one arm when he’s out there. If everybody had a ‘Ben mindset’ we’d win easily, but not everybody has that drive to be successful and to make the best of everything.”
Pimlott said that he strives to work on becoming a better player as he hopes to earn a college scholarship after he graduates from high school.
“I hope to go to college on a scholarship because I can’t afford college and become some type of engineer later on but also maybe have basketball camps or help train players,” he said.
Since becoming adopted, Pimlott has visited China twice — the last time was to meet and adopt his sister. He enjoys visiting his motherland and hopes to visit again in the future.