BAKER, LA (WAFB) - A tangle of 8-year-olds chase a bouncing basketball across the court. In the middle of it all is Clifton Walker IV. His name is bigger than he is, but the pint-sized point guard for BREC'S Buffalo Soldiers has been turning heads since he first stepped into Baker's T.D. Bickham gym this season.
Parents and on-lookers cheer him on from the stands, while coaches shout instructions from the sidelines. The final game of the season is approaching, and Walker and his team have to be ready. But for Walker it is about fun. "You get to dribble the ball, and shoot, and win games," he said.
First year coach Alphany Mobley is impressed with Walker's aggressiveness for a first-timer. "He keeps the kids going. He's a motivator."
For coach Creighton Guillory, it's Walker's leadership skills. "Cliff has always been the same." said Guillory. "The contagious smile. Polite."
What makes Walker truly special is how he got to this point. By all accounts, he should be in bed. "You just see the confidence in him," said Mobley, "that it really doesn't matter that he doesn't have a leg. He just comes out and gives it his all."
Eight-year-old Walker plays basketball on a titanium leg.
It was 2013. Then 3-year-old Walker was in the front yard helping his family clean up. His mother, Natasha, was on a riding lawn mower when the unthinkable happened.
"I saw him running, and thought he stopped." said Natasha. She lost sight of little Cliffy when she ducked to avoid a low-hanging tree limb. "When I looked back Clifton was on the ground. I didn't realize I hit him."
The family rushed Cliffy to the hospital. The three-year-old comforted them along the way. "He was like, 'Mom, don't cry, my leg is just broken,'" said Natasha. "He didn't even cry. He's a strong little kid."
Emergency room doctors had bad news. The mower had amputated Cliffy's leg two inches below his knee. They would be lucky if they could save the rest of Cliffy's leg, much less promise he would walk again. The family eventually found doctors at Children's Hospital in New Orleans who could.
After 13-and-a-half hours in an operating room and three months in the hospital, Cliffy learned to walk in a temporary prosthesis in just one hour. "that's just Cliffy." said Natasha. "He doesn't stop for anything."
Sunday, the Buffalo Soldiers took on BREC'S Lil Jags with Cliffy at the helm. "He's just like, 'Coach, I'm going in. Coach, I'm going in. I wanna start. I wanna start,'" said coach Teressa Jyles. "It's like no size, no height. It does not intimidate him at all."
Mom Natasha gets a little nervous watching from the stands, but not Cliffy. "He's not afraid to take you head-on, cut through the lane, shoot the ball." Natasha said. "He's not scared."
It was a physical game. The bigger, and older Jags out-muscled the Buffalo Soldiers. Cliffy even tasted the hardwood a few times. But every time, he got up smiling. He scored three of the Buffalo Soldiers' five points as they lost to the Jags 11-5.
While winning would have been nice. Cliffy measures success in a different way. "You just got to have fun." And Cliffy plans to continue doing just that. Although basketball season is over, T-Ball is right around the corner, and football right after that. Cliffy plays those sports as well.
Cliffy is a growing boy, and prosthetics can be expensive. He is outgrowing his titanium leg and will need a new one soon. For those who would like to donate money for his new leg, you can do so at any Whitney Bank. There is a benefit account set up under the name Clifton E. Walker IV.