By Emily Drooby
Every day after school, Danny Mantia is on the basketball court. Passing, shooting and perfecting his craft, he has a natural talent that runs in the family: His dad was his coach for years.
“I started playing basketball when I was probably six years old at my dad’s games,” he told Currents News.
Basketball, for the last 11 years it has been Danny’s passion.
“I play after school and then go home and watch basketball on TV, so a pretty big part of my life,” he explained.
To Danny, it’s not just a game. The court is where he faces off not only against opponents, but life.
“That’s been Danny all along, he just figures it out,” explained his mother, Mary Beth.
Life has thrown a lot his way, and he’s taken it in stride.
“Before his birth, while he was in utero, they noticed that something was wrong,” said Mary Beth.
Danny’s mom says doctors discovered he had what at the time they called “Proximal Focal Femoral Dysplasia,” a rare disease that affects the growth of the thigh bone. Doctors suggested removing his leg.
“And my husband and I were like, what? I mean this is a perfectly normal leg, it just needed some fixing,” said Mary Beth.
They chose to fight — Danny’s first face-off.
Four surgeries and more to come: straightening the bone, making an ACL, removing hardware and two lengthening surgeries, leading to three painful months of slowly stretching the bone.
“Just the whole having to rehab aspect of it,” is a challenge for Danny, “because I’ll be playing and I’ll have to take eight months off to rehab my leg and that can be difficult sometimes.”
It’s eight months to recover, nine more to regain his strength.
“He’s actually a pretty amazing kid. Just going through the surgeries that he’s gone through he has never complained. And this kid, you know this kid wakes up in pain almost every day, and the pain to him is just normal,” Mary Beth explained.
His leg has been stretched five inches, and he has two inches left.
It would be easy for the 17-year-old to lace up his shoes, to stop playing, to give up — but he doesn’t.
“God picked the right child,” said Mary Beth
Instead the point guard works harder and uses a lifted shoe, refusing to lose a step.
His coach, Bill Haskell, knows what it’s like to work hard for the love of the game. Born without a right hand, he played high school and college basketball.
“You know I just followed the game and studied it, and worked so hard at it,” he told Currents News.
After retiring from a long college coaching career, Bill decided to come to Saratoga Central Catholic School.
“When I retired I had in mind that I would love to become a high school basketball coach, where I could maybe inspire some kids,” he said.
Little did he know he would be inspired too. “It’s very encouraging that somebody would love the game that much to work that hard to be able to play,” he said.