Basketball was always C.J. Bellamy's thing. By 2006, at 17 and at 6-foot-1, he was a rising star at Edgewater High in Orlando, Fla., and wanted to play for the North Carolina Tar Heels.
His mom would sometimes tell him to think about a Plan B, but he would brush it off.
"She would say all the time, 'What if you get injured and you're not going to be able to play basketball?' And I'd be like, 'Whatever. I'm going be in the NBA. We're gonna be in a mansion,' " he recalled.
Then it happened.
On Christmas night 2006, while he was hanging out with his friends at a Mobil gas station, someone in a moving car began shooting at the direction of C.J. and his friends and one of the bullets hit C.J., grazing his spine and paralyzing him from the chest down.
"It was just a random, random crime," said Sateria Bellamy, C.J.'s mom, who took off months from work to care for him. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Detectives called the case, which has never been solved, one of the toughest they had encountered.
After he was shot, C.J. had dreams he would walk again. "I keep telling people that next year, I'm going to be back on the court, playing again, win the state championship," he told a Sentinel reporter in March 2007.
Then he added: "But it's more than likely that I know it's probably not going to happen like that."
It's been more than a decade since that Christmas night. C.J., now 29, can't walk and probably never will.
But he has a college degree. He has a full time job. He lives on his own. And he gives motivational speeches to high-school students.
"I'm very, very proud of my son," said his mom. "C.J. has come a long way. In the beginning, when it first happened it was very hard for him. ... But as the years and the days went on, he progressed tremendously."
It hasn't been an easy journey. There have been days when he's wanted to give up. There are days that he's in so much pain he can't get out of bed.
The partial paralysis causes burning sensations and spasms.
The spasms can help C.J. stand up, although he can't walk. "It's really aggravating. It's like my body's on fire all the time," he said.
But when he has a hard time, his mom, dad and three siblings lift him up.
"That's just our thing. Like, we never give up on something. So we're real passionate about things. That's kind of like our little family slogan: Never give up," C.J. said.
C.J. still doesn't know who shot him. And he's yet to go back to that gas station.
"I believe in God so I will have to forgive them in order to move on and proceed with my life. ... And I feel like I've done so much since everything happened. I've accomplished so much. I'm still positive and still able to influence others, which is what I was trying to do in the beginning. So being able to continue what I was doing before into now is just crazy," he said.
After graduating high school C.J. decided to go to Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he could play wheelchair basketball.
His parents helped him move to his new apartment and for the first time, he had to live on his own. It wasn't easy at first, but he eventually figured it out.
And he stayed active after he finished college and moved back to Orlando.
For a while he has played for the Orlando Magic Wheels, an independent nonprofit local basketball wheelchair team that's no longer affiliated with the Orlando Magic.
Then last year, a childhood friend who was paralyzed in a freak motorcycle accident in 2010, told C.J. about SOCF CrossFit gym, which offered an adaptive athlete program that allows individuals in wheelchairs to work out with everyone else.
And like his friend, David Kellam, C.J. took to it.
He had never felt comfortable at a traditional gym, and people staring at him made it worse.
"But here, it's like, 'What's up C.J.? Go ahead do your thing.' Or, 'David, we know you can lift, bro, just do it.' They're just accepting and it makes you feel a part of something. Like being in a chair, your whole thing is you want to feel part of something again."
C.J. is a bit shy. And when it comes to dating, he's old school. He sometimes uses the dating apps, but prefers to meet a woman in person, maybe in a store or gas station or some place random.
He knows some people judge him because he's in a wheelchair. He can see it, even if it's a little eye gesture.
"I feel like some people try to understand my situation but then others are like, 'I'm not going to be able to handle it because I have to do everything for him.' But I know how to cook. I can clean. I wash my own clothes. I have a job. I feel like I'm doing pretty good."
In recent years, he's started opening up about his life story and started giving motivation talks, especially to young students, to encourage them to watch their company. To stay focused and work hard.
"I just talk about real life. I tell them that if they're doing good but hanging around the wrong people, it'll catch up with you," he said.
And he tells them that they can call him if they need someone to talk to.
"The main thing that I found out being in a wheelchair is that holding it all in only stresses you out. It makes you feel alone and depressed. So me coming out of my conform zone and really expressing myself really helped me help others," said C.J.
After learning about his story, fellow CrossFitter Tatiana Vargas, who is a teacher in a school for at-risk students, asked him to come speak to her students.
"I thought, you know, what better opportunity than to have someone like C.J. who had his life changed in a blink of an eye, who was able to adapt, and also who continues to be have a growth mindset and stay positive, even though he had any reasons where a lot of people would have turned in another direction," said Vargas. "I wanted my students to see someone who took the change and embraced it was able to grow from what happened to become a better individual."
Basketball may be the thing that C.J. misses most. And maybe some of the little things - like hopping in and out of a car.
But if you ask him, he'll tell you that what he wants the most is to be treated just like everybody else.
"People need to understand that there's more to the person than just the chair. The chair is just a way for us to maneuver around," he said. "They're just regular people. They still have conversations. They feel like they're still active. They're still motivated to do things. I want to get people to just realize it's more to a person than just the chair and not walking."