Duquesne forward Ashaolu walking, talking in hospital

Updated: October 12, 2006, 11:15 AM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Duquesne University forward Sam Ashaolu, one of five players shot last month following an on-campus party, has begun walking on his own as he continues to rehabilitate from head injuries caused by multiple gunshot wounds.

Ashaolu, the most seriously injured of the five players, is getting out of bed by himself now, walking unaided in Mercy Hospital's rehabilitation unit and has started calling family members on his cell phone.

Physicians recently removed a feeding tube, and Ashaolu has been talking -- though softly -- with a number of friends and family members who regularly visit him.

Ashaolu, who still has several bullet fragments in his head, also has begun calling his mother and younger brother.

"A friend of his was here the other night and began asking Sam math questions -- What is three plus three? What is five times five? And Sam answered them," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said Wednesday. "We're seeing progress every day."

The 23-year-old Ashaolu, from Toronto, Ontario, spent several days fighting for his life following the Sept. 17 on-campus shootings. Whether he can play basketball again is uncertain, but doctors are pleased with his progress since he moved from a critical care unit to the rehabilitation wing two weeks ago.

A surgeon removed a bullet fragment from Ashaolu's head on Sept. 25, but several other fragments remain.

The other four injured players have returned to classes, although junior forward Stuard Baldonado won't be able to start preseason practice Friday as bullet wounds in his back and left arm continue to heal.

Baldonado, a former junior college star who is considered Duquesne's top recruit for this season, is shooting the ball before and after practices but still faces at least another six weeks of rehabilitation and recovery. He is likely to be redshirted this season to preserve his two seasons of major college eligibility.

Shawn James, a 6-foot-10 center who led the nation in blocked shots last season for Everhart at Northeastern, had the cast removed from his injured foot and is walking without crutches. He hopes to have the bullet in his foot removed soon.

James and former Siena guard Kojo Mensah, who was shot in the left arm and shoulder, weren't eligible this season after transferring from Division I schools. James and Mensah were reunited at Duquesne after previously being teammates in AAU ball and at a prep school.

Everhart is looking forward to the start of practice so his players can refocus on basketball and the coming season.

"It's going to be therapeutic for everybody," he said.

Four people are accused of crimes in the shootings that followed a Black Student Union party at Duquesne. Two -- William Holmes and Derek Lee -- are accused of firing at the players. A suspended Duquesne student, Brittany Jones, is accused of helping the two get into the dance. Another woman, Erica R. Sager, is accused of urging that the players be shot.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press