It was on the first day of March of 2018 when the Elyria Christian boys basketball team were competing in the Class 1A Sub-State tournament at Stafford High School. Tyler Huxman had a 15-point performance as the Eagles defeated Stafford 62-51. One of the administrators took notice of the then junior player while he was throwing the ball and saw that Huxman was missing some fingers from his hands. When Chris Huxman's, Tyler Huxman’s dad was asked about it, he responded, "you should see his feet."
All year Tyler Huxman has been playing with three fingers in each hand, and two toes on each foot. He's been battling with Ectrodactyly–ectodermal dysplasia–cleft syndrome or EEC.
EEC is a rare condition in which the individual is missing the central part of his or her digits. It also affects the hair, teeth, nails and sweat glands. For Huxman, there is a wide gap between his thumbs and pinkies. He doesn't have a middle finger or index finger.
DeAnn Huxman, Tyler Huxman’s mother, didn't know about the diagnose until 30 weeks into her pregnancy. Doctors weren't able to identify the problem until the day Tyler Huxman was born. Throughout his early childhood, Tyler Huxman had to go through 27 different surgeries.
"It was tough going through that process all the time, and annoying," Tyler Huxman said. "I got frustrated, but it's all good now."
Tyler Huxman had to face some difficult challenges he was a toddler, like learning how to walk with only two toes on his feet. Eventually, he got through it.
"Learning how to walk was probably one of the biggest challenges," DeAnn Huxman said. "He had orthotics to learn to walk initially, and then those were rubbing, and there was a big issue of us getting into contact to get that figure out. In the meantime, he started walking without them. So, we were like okay, we didn't need them anymore."
Another aspect of the disease Tyler Huxman had to face was perspiration. As a child, he struggled to sweat normally, and it wasn’t until he reached high school that he started sweating consistently.
"He didn't really sweat very much. His sweat glands were not working very well," Chris Huxman said. "There were times when he was a really good soccer player, and there was one time he just kind of sat down on the field. We were like 'what's his problem,' and then we realized he was overheated. So that was an issue with him. That was probably the biggest issue that we ever faced in a lot of ways I would say."
Despite dealing with EEC, Tyler Huxman was involved in multiple sports, with basketball being his first love. From the time he played at the YMCA rec center when he was in elementary school, basketball was his passion. He joined the Eagles basketball team where he was on varsity for three years. He struggled at first with getting a good grip on the ball, then finding his shooting motions and the conditioning that goes along with the sport. He had to make some adjustments and adapted.
"That was the hardest thing for me for my hands because my feet gets a lot of pain in them because I don't have that much....like the ball of my feet to walk on. I get pains in my feet by working out and stuff," Tyler Huxman said.
"When he was younger with the missing fingers, the missing toes, I didn't think it hurt as much as they do now," Chris Huxman said. "When you get older, practices are longer and harder. You weigh more, so there is more pounding on your feet, and you're jumping higher and all those different things."
Tyler Huxman still kept up with his teammates and didn’t use his disabilities as an excuse. He became a full-time starter in his junior year.
"I just never thought I was any different. So I just work harder and try to do my best," Tyler Huxman said. "I've changed my shot quite a few times over the years, but I always felt like I was a shooter. Since I was a kid, I just went out and shoot, and I was good at it."
It was also the year the Eagles shocked the state of Kansas with a 21-2 record under Head Coach Zach Goodrich. The Eagles went on a 14-game winning streak at the beginning of the season. Tyler Huxman shot an average 45 percent from the field and was one of the Eagles leading scorer.
"My expectations were the same for him as for any other player on the team," Goodrich said. "I remember watching him for the first time, and still to this day I am amazed at what he can do on the basketball court with his condition. He is a selfless competitor and a fighter. I coached Tyler for three years, and the thing I learned most about him is that he desires to be a good team player. He will do all the little things the team needs on a given night. If we needed him to defend, he would do his best to make sure not to let the opposing team's best player have a great night. If he has to score, he will knock down the open three, and if he needs to be a vocal leader, he will make sure to encourage the young players, understanding that we need them to be confident if we are going to be successful."
Tyler Huxman has a great relationship with Goodrich on and off the court. Tyler Huxman considers him to be a significant influence in his life.
"He has a good relationship with the kids outside of basketball, and you can talk to him about stuff, and he's just there for you when you need it," Tyler Huxman said. "He can also help you reach that next level of sports too."
In his senior year, Huxman averaged 6.4 points per game and 2.5 rebounds per game, leading the Eagles to a 13-7 season. In early May, he signed his letter of intent to play basketball at Sterling College.
"I chose Sterling because, first of all, I think of it as a good potential, and then also I like how my coach (Goodrich) is in the hall of fame there. He knows it's a good school. So it was easy to trust him when he told me things about it.
Playing basketball at the college level is a dream come true for the now Elyria graduate. He wants to send a message to anyone
“I always wanted to play college basketball because I wanted to show that I can do whatever I want. If I put my mind to it, I can make it there,” he said. “That's part of playing college basketball. To show people that you don't need to let things hold you back."
"It's a great opportunity for Hux, and I believe he has a chance to grow as a player and a young man," Goodrich said. "If he continues to work hard and put the time in the gym. He can put himself in a positive situation. It's not going to be easy, but he has overcome a lot of challenges in his athletic career. I believe he can accomplish a few more at the collegiate level. I look forward to keeping up with him, and watching him find success in the next four years."
Tyler Huxman plans on majoring in sports management. After he hangs up his jersey, he wants to continue to stick with basketball as a scout and analyst.
"I love watching basketball. That's what I do all the time. When I'm at home, I watch basketball, and I love analyzing and helping people with what they can do better."
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