One-handed St. John's basketball player makes mark on the court

The basketball team at St. John's University is currently ranked number 15 in the nation in Division III. But when it comes to overcoming obstacles, one of their players is number one.

On the hardwood in the Warner Palaestra, it's all hands on deck. Except, one player is practicing without that particular appendage.

"Since I was little, I've been playing basketball," senior forward John Oliver said. "It's not playing basketball with a missing hand. It's competing at the highest level I know."

Oliver was born without his left hand because of the way he and his twin sister were situated in his mother's womb.

His parents tried a prosthetic hand on him when he was a child, but he didn't like it.

Still, having one hand didn't stop him from starting for St. Marion Catholic High School in Chicago Heights where he played on one of the best basketball teams in Illinois, along with future NBA point guard Tyler Ulis.

"From basketball to fighting around the house at grandma's, I was never treated as someone with a disability or that we need to take it slower. They always treated me like one of the guys, never looked at it that way," Oliver said.

Since coming to St. John's four years ago, Oliver's positive attitude and work ethic have been an inspiration, both on the court and off.

Last season, he had the fewest turnovers on the team, was the second leading rebounder and had his fair share of blocked shots.

"He's out here because he can play. It's not a token spot on roster. It's not a charity spot; the kid makes plays. He makes us better. He's going to make us better today. So we treat him like everyone else," Coach Pat McKenzie said.

Instead of his heart, Oliver wears his life's mantra on his sleeve. And so far, following it has been a slam dunk.

"Set your own limits and once you get there, set new ones," Oliver said.

Oliver plans to hang up his jersey after graduation this year, pursuing a career in sports marketing.