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College

Injured Dukes player feels no animosity

| Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006

Duquesne basketball player Sam Ashaolu has bullet fragments in his brain from a campus shooting two months ago, but he spoke Wednesday about returning to the team next season.

"I'm thinking I'll be coming back 100 percent next year," Ashaolu said after watching from a front-row seat at Palumbo Center while his teammates practiced. "My main thing is graduating, but basketball is my passion. I'm feeling better. I don't think much about what happened, only that I want to get on with life. I don't even think about who did it.

"Sometimes, I just think about why."

Since his first comments after the shooting, Ashaolu has insisted that he'll play for Duquesne next year, even if doctors are taking a more cautious approach.

"I wish I was practicing right now," he said. "It's upsetting to me to not be able to help these guys."

Duquesne coach Ron Everhart isn't ruling out a return to the team by the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Ashaolu, who has yet to play a game for the Dukes after transferring from Lake Region State (N.D.) College.

"I would never bet against this kid," Everhart said.

Ashaolu, who was shot twice in the head Sept. 17, immediately stood up when practice concluded and joined his teammates in a circle at midcourt. They held hands. They talked about the day. They prayed.

Then, Ashaolu and four other players wounded in the shooting -- Stuard Baldonado, Shawn James, Aaron Jackson and Kojo Mensah -- took part in yet another media request, posing for a lengthy photo session for a national magazine.

Finally, after nearly 45 torturous minutes, Ashaolu yelled, "Where's the pizza• I'm hungry."

Later, on a level high above the floor, Ashaolu, who will turn 24 on Christmas Day, spoke about his rapid recovery from the near-fatal shooting. He said he feels no animosity. He only wants to remain healthy and play basketball again.

"I wish all this publicity was a basketball situation," he said, with a slight shake of his head. "I hope this never happens to anyone else here at Duquesne. I thank God I'm alive."

Meanwhile, Everhart leads his Dukes (2-3) in practices and prepares for their next game Saturday at Robert Morris. But his thoughts stray to Ashaolu.

"When you consider how many obstacles this kid had to overcome, he's exceeded everyone's expectations," Everhart said. "He's certainly been an inspiration to me. It's a miracle."

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