Five Duquesne basketball players shot; one critical

Updated: September 18, 2006, 9:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PITTSBURGH -- Three of the five Duquesne basketball players shot early Sunday remained hospitalized Monday, with the most seriously injured player "fighting for his life," a Duquesne source told ESPN.com's Andy Katz.

Duquesne coach Everhart reacts
Duquesne coach Ron Everhart was dumbfounded by the shooting of five of his players Sunday. Still, he told ESPN.com's Andy Katz, he was struck by one thing: in the face of senseless violence, his newly-created team banded together.

To read more of Everhart's reaction, click here.

Sam Ashaolu, a transfer from Lake Region State College (N.D.) who multiple sources said was shot in the head, had an "up and down night" as doctors waited for the swelling to subside. The bullet remains lodged in Ashaolu's head. The 23-year-old Ashaolu has been in critical condition at Mercy Hospital, and his condition remained unchanged Monday night. His family, which flew in from Toronto on Sunday, is by his side.

Meanwhile, teammate Stuard Baldonado of Colombia was upgraded to fair condition. Baldonado, who also is being treated at Mercy Hospital, was on his feet Monday, helping sooth fears that there could be paralysis. A bullet tore through his abdomen and nipped the third lumbar, leaving doctors concerned about the condition of his spine, the source told Katz. The bullet remains lodged in his body.

Baldonado was moved to a different room Monday after his condition was upgraded. Baldonado, a Miami Dade College transfer who is considered the school's best recruit, is expected to begin physical therapy in the coming days.

The five players were shot on campus early Sunday after some of them tried to calm a man who apparently had been disruptive at a dance, officials said.

Sam Ashaolu
Ashaolu

Stuard Baldonado
Baldonado

Police searched for the gunman, and the downtown school stepped up its round-the-clock police protection with armed university police officers guarding dormitories and other buildings.

Two players had been walking near a dormitory when they encountered a man who apparently had been disruptive at a student union dance, authorities said. The players attempted to pacify him and walked away but were shot. Players who rushed to their aid were also shot.

Also still hospitalized was Kojo Mensah, a guard from New York City who averaged nearly 17 points last season at Siena College before transferring. Mensah is recovering at Presbyterian Hospital from gunshot wounds to the arm and shoulder.

Kojo Mensah
Mensah

Mensah made summer headlines for wanting out of Siena, but didn't get released and was paying his own way to Duquesne because of the dispute with his former school.

Treated and released Sunday were Shawn James of New York City, the nation's leading shot blocker last season at Northeastern University before transferring to Duquesne; and Aaron Jackson of Hartford, Conn., a guard who is one of only two returning players from Duquesne's 3-24 team last season.

Shawn James
James
Aaron Jackson
Jackson

James, an NBA prospect expected to be Duquesne's top player when he becomes eligible in the 2007-08 season, was shot in the foot but the bullet didn't break a bone so he was treated and released, Katz reports. Jackson had a bullet graze his hand. He was treated and released.

The gunman and a group of people with him were not students, university president Charles Dougherty said. Several witnesses saw the gunman leave campus after the shots were fired.

Witnesses reported seeing two guns, Dougherty said, but he couldn't confirm whether both were fired. The second gun was seen on someone in a group with the gunman, Dougherty said.

Six to 12 shots were fired, he said. He did not know what sparked the violence.

"My concern is for the players, their welfare and their families," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart, formerly at Northeastern, told Katz. "But you can't ever dream something like this happening.

"We had guys diving and knocking guys out of the way of the gunfire and diving on the ground, wrapping each other up with tourniquets to stop the bleeding," Everhart said. "They were applying pressure on the wounds. It's a remarkable testament to the character of our kids."

According to the Duquesne source, the majority of the team had gone to a Black Student Association dance event. The players were walking back to the dorms when they were approached by the gunman.

"What motive can there be for unloading a pistol into a group of students?" Dougherty said.

City police were searching for a black man about 5 feet 4 inches tall who was seen running from campus after firing six to 12 shots from a semiautomatic handgun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The gunman and any companions are not believed to be Duquesne students.

"The entire Duquesne University community is saddened and shocked," Dougherty said. "We're shocked because an event of this sort has never happened. It's a safe campus and known to be a safe campus."

Students wrestled with how the shootings could affect the reputation of their campus, long considered safe.

Freshman Harold Kolonich, walking with his parents near the campus Sunday night, had few worries.

"I still trust the atmosphere. Duquesne is still a safe campus," he said. "It's unfortunate stuff like that happens. It's a wonderful place to be."

Junior Katie Hauser, 20, of Latrobe, said she only attends Sunday evening Mass once in a while, but went Sunday because of the shooting.

"It's really good everyone came together," she said. "You feel a little bit closer."

Ralph Gigliotti, president of the student body, called the event "unprecedented."

"With the values we uphold here and believe in, I do not think this will harm our reputation."

Duquesne University is a private Catholic institution with nearly 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

At the school's regular Sunday night Mass, the Rev. Timothy Hickey asked more than 300 students in the packed chapel to pray for the victims.

"As we come together we acknowledge our shock and sadness about what happened here," he said.

"Their healing is our utmost concern," Hickey said. "We are a tight-knit community, and what affects one of us affects all of us. We are family and we care for one another."

Everhart had rebuilt the school's program after being hired in March by bringing in 10 recruits -- one of the most sweeping upheavals of any Division I program in recent years.

Information from ESPN.com senior college basketball writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.