PITTSBURGH -- Sam Ashaolu, still hospitalized more than a
month after being shot, is shooting a basketball and lifting
weights as part of his rehabilitation.
Duquesne officials stress the physical work is part of a program
to reacquaint the 23-year-old player with familiar aspects of his
life and to build up his strength.
Ashaolu, a 6-foot-7 power forward, is recovering from multiple
gunshot wounds to the head. The most seriously injured of five
Duquesne University players shot on campus, Ashaolu nearly died in
the hours following the early-morning shootings of Sept. 17.
He first wanted to pick up a basketball again several weeks ago.
In the past few days, he has been shooting casually at Mercy
Hospital, where he is in the brain injury rehabilitation unit. The
sessions are part of his rehab and are not designed like those of a
structured college basketball practice.
"He's making great progress," said Duquesne coach Ron
Everhart, who has visited Ashaolu almost daily since the shootings.
"We see it every day and are thankful for it."
Ashaolu has progressed faster than expected but still faces
months -- if not longer -- of recovery and rehabilitation. It remains
unclear how severely the shootings impaired his memory and his
thinking. His return to basketball and college are very much
"We're not worried about that," Everhart said. "We just want
him to get better."
Ashaolu has regained some of the estimated 30 pounds he lost in
the first few weeks, and he is exercising almost daily. Although
one bullet was removed Sept. 25 after it surfaced behind an ear, he
still has fragments of another bullet in his head.
He's expected to remain hospitalized for a few more weeks and
will need around-the-clock care when he's discharged.
Duquesne's other injured players are in various stages of their
Stuard Baldonado, a 6-7 power forward who was being counted upon
for considerable playing time this season, watches practice daily
but needs extensive rehabilitation. Shot in the lower back and left
arm, he likely will be redshirted this season.
Shawn James, a 6-10 frontcourt player who left Northeastern to
move to Duquesne with Everhart, still cannot practice because of a
bullet lodged in his foot. He is hoping light running and casual
shooting in practice will cause the bullet to move closer to his
skin so it can be removed.
Kojo Mensah, a guard who transferred from Siena, also cannot
practice because of injuries to his left arm and shoulder. Neither
James nor Mensah is eligible this season.
Aaron Jackson, the only one of the five players shot who did not
receive a substantial injury, was grazed in the wrist by the same
bullet that struck Mensah. One of two players returning from last
season's 3-24 team, he has practiced since preseason workouts
formally began Oct. 13.
Because the shootings have further weakened a program that was
the worst in the Atlantic 10 Conference last season, Everhart was
surprised when conference coaches picked the Dukes to finish 13th
in the 14-school league.
The Dukes have had a losing record in all but one of the last 20
seasons and haven't been ranked in the AP Top 25 in 34 years.
Depleted by the shooting and other routine injuries, Everhart at
times has had only eight healthy players for practice -- including
"Maybe it's a show of support from the other coaches we weren't
picked last," Everhart said.