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College

Duquesne's Ashaolu speeds up rehab

| Wednesday, March 7, 2007

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Sam Ashaolu's return to the basketball court is on a fast track because of his intense desire to recover from a near-fatal shooting last year at Duquesne University, those close to the injured first-year Dukes player said.

The 6-foot-7 forward from Toronto, who was the most seriously wounded among five players shot following a Sept. 17 on-campus dance, has been cleared to resume on-court activity, despite bullet fragments lodged in his head.

"Basketball has been an inspiration to him," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said Tuesday. "He's a tough young man."

Everhart said Ashaolu is eager to re-enroll at Duquesne, but until then still should be able to take part in informal summer workouts with his teammates beginning in late May if he obtains an NCAA clearance waiver.

"I look at Sam and think that nobody is going to deny him the opportunity to come back and play," Everhart said. "I expect that he will play again some day."

When he was first injured, doctors were skeptical of Ashaolu's chances of even becoming self-sufficient again. Not only did he beat those odds, he's been regularly working out on his own at Palumbo Center since shortly after the start of the regular season in November.

Everhart said doctors told him the swelling around the bullet fragments in Ashaolu's head has dramatically decreased in recent weeks.

"It has been just astounding to me how quickly Sam has progressed," the coach said. "He's just had some great medical care."

Mercy Hospital neurosurgeon Daniel Bursick recently told Sam Ashaolu's brother, John, a Duquesne graduate assistant, that Sam Ashaolu was free to begin playing basketball again, despite the notion he was not sufficiently healed.

"Sam is healing pretty well," John Ashaolu said.

Everhart said he had hoped Sam Ashaolu could accompany the Dukes to the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, but the waiver issue "kind of dragged on."

Duquesne (10-18, 6-10), seeded 10th, meets seventh-seeded Saint Louis (18-12, 8-8) at 6:30 p.m. today in the tournament's first round at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The winner advances to face second-seeded Massachusetts. The Dukes defeated the Billikens, 73-63, during the regular season.

Duquesne, which has lost seven consecutive games after unexpectedly winning five in a row, isn't expected to have freshman forward Stephen Wood available for a second consecutive game.

Wood had not yet returned to the team yesterday following the death of his father last week. He missed the Dukes' regular-season finale Saturday -- an 88-80 loss at George Washington -- and his absence would again limit Everhart's options for running the team's "1040" style, which employs 10 players in alternating lineups at a fast pace for 40 minutes.

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