‘He’s fought every day of his life’: How basketball is changing the game for Nick Ludwig

POST FALLS, Idaho — Nothing seems to slow down a fast moving basketball game like a player headed to the free throw line.  A hush falls over the crowd as all eyes are on one player trying to lift his team.

Matt and Tessa Ludwing’s life was also fast moving with two kids and another on the way, when it came to a similar halt, and all eyes turned to their third child, Nick.

“We found out then that nick had what’s called a single ventricle anomaly. There wasn’t really hope for him,” explained Tessa.

“Normal hearts have four chambers, Nick has two, so his pumping mechanism is a fraction of what normal kids and adults would grow up with,” added Matt.

Nick had three open heart surgeries by the time he was just five months old.  He and his family spent countless hours inside of a hospital, but now, he’s a happy nine year old that hates to slow down.

Post Falls nine year old Nick Ludwig found a way to compete through tough medical limitations

“He’s fought every day of his life he continues to, he loves life so much that he doesn’t know what his threshold is,” explained Tessa while fighting back tears.  “The doctors keep telling us he’ll learn to self limit, nope.  He loves to have fun, you see it in his eyes, he wants so badly to compete.”

“It looks hard to play but then it also looks really fun to play,” Nick says.  “It’s been kind of boring just sitting on a bench.”

For the first nine years of his life, Nick has been forced to watch from the sideline, until he found out about Elk’s Hoopshoot.  That’s a national free throw competition that was having tryouts at his elementary school.

“You see it like, ‘can I do this?’ Yeah! this is one of the things you can do, let’s go get this one done,” recalls Matt.  “We wouldn’t miss this for anything,” he added.

It turns out Nick wouldn’t miss much either.  In his first try in this competition he drained 80 percent of his shots.  Nobody his age or even a grade higher was able to knock down 50 percent.

“He came off the court with a smile from ear to ear because he was just excited to be a part of it,” remembers Tessa

And that smile was quick to return when Nick was asked how he made so many shots.

“Because my dad most of the time taught me how to shoot the ball properly,” beamed Nick.

“To see your son laying on a table, opened up, and then to look at him 9 years later shooting baskets, knocking down free throws,” recalled Matt.  “And to see him compete when he gets the opportunity to do it, are one of those things that take a mom and dad and just fill my heart with just joy.”

Nick uses every bit of his half-functioning heart to make others feel whole.  With a Basketball and a hoop, he’s not thinking about what he doesn’t have, or what he can’t do.

“I feel included because my friends always root for me but they also think about me as I do it,” says Nick

When the time came, Nick did what he’s always done.  When all eyes and attention are on him, and the stakes are high, Nick steps up to the line and makes you believe.

“We don’t know what his future’s gonna hold,” Tessa says.  “We know that transplant is something he’ll need at some point in his life. But if he continues to fight the way he always has, which I know he will, he’s got a really bright future.

“Nobody looks at their kids and goes, ‘man there’s a time clock on you,’ Matt said.  “If you’d known the adversity he’s faced and the hand he was dealt stepping into life I mean I can say as a grown man how I would wither with what he’s had to face. But it’s awesome to see him look at life, and he only sees good.”

Nick is hoping to make it all the way to the Hoopshoot National finals in Chicago next year.