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9/18/2006 03:10:00 PM
Horror At Duquesne
Police cars mark the scene of the shooting on the Duquesne campus.
Teams that go 3-24 are typically and, perhaps, mercifully ignored in the offseason, and yet this spring and summer, Duquesne found itself almost constantly in the news.
Most of it good, too: New coach Ron Everhart, who was hired at the end of March from Northeastern, which he had rebuilt into a winner in the America East, was cleaning house and building optimism around a program that had experienced just two winning seasons since 1981. Everhart said goodbye to five players (and a host of recruits) from the old regime and brought in 10 new ones, including 6-foot-11 Shawn James, who at Northeastern was the nation's leading shot blocker in 2005-06, and Kojo Mensah, who averaged 16.6 points her game last season at Siena.
In an Aug. 14 Q&A session with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Everhart gushed about how he relished the challenge of turning around a losing program in the Atlantic 10, after doing it at Northeastern and, before that, McNeese State. Near the end of the interview, he was asked, "What's your biggest concern as a head coach?"
Everhart's response was: "I'm nervous every day I walk into the office that I'll get a phone call about one of my players being in trouble or having academic problems. That's the call every coach dreads."
At 2:51 a.m. Sunday -- 28 days before fall practice was to begin in Pittsburgh -- Everhart received a call bearing news far worse than he ever could have anticipated.
Assistant coach Daryn Freedman was on the line. The unthinkable had occurred on campus after a Saturday night out. Five Dukes players had been shot by an unknown assailant -- who wasn't a Duquesne student -- after leaving the Black Student Union "College Bash '06." Everhart left for Mercy Hospital near campus.
The coach has been there for the majority of the time since, holding vigil over the Dukes' two most seriously injured players, 6-7 Sam Ashaolu, a transfer from Lake Region Community College in North Dakota, and 6-7 Stuard Baldonado, a transfer from Miami Dade College.
Ashaolu was struck in the head by a bullet -- witnesses estimate there were between six and 12 shots fired -- and remained in critical condition Monday, according to a team source. Baldonado was shot in the abdomen and listed in serious condition. Both players remain at Mercy, and the suspect is still at large.
Mensah and James, Everhart's two highest-profile transfers (both of whom must sit out the 2006-07 season), were also shot, as was Aaron Jackson, one of the Dukes' two returning players. Mensah, who bitterly departed from Siena this offseason -- after the team refused to release him from his scholarship -- and was covering his own tuition at Duquense, was hit in the shoulder and taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital for treatment. James was shot in the foot and has since been released. Jackson was grazed in the hand by a bullet.
The optimism that pervaded the Duquesne program in the summer months has given way to shock and solemnity. Everhart told the Post-Gazette Sunday that the events were "very emotional for me because I recruited these kids. It's a very hard thing to deal with. I am very tired, but very concerned. My only concern right now is for the kids and their families."
The daunting task of elevating a team that hasn't been over .500 since 1994 to respectability in the A-10 has been replaced with something far more difficult: picking up the pieces from a horrific shooting, and counseling a stunned group of players. It will be Everhart's toughest rebuilding project of all.
I just graduated from Duquesne in May, and am not totally shocked that this happened. We do take pride in being a very safe campus, however we are also located in an area that is on the decline. I was really excited to see what the new program was going to bring, especially because I got to watch 4 years of terrible basketball, but this almost makes me feel like the program is cursed.
I understand that having a new coach that is cleaning house having 5 players shot is news, but your article should be about 5 students shot on campus, not basketball players. I realize this is a sports website, but again, the emphasis should be on the fact that 5 students got shot, not on the coach trying to rebuild a program without 5 players. Thank goodness the coach has expressed more concerned for the students shot than for his basketball program.
Sounds like your more disappointed about the upcoming basketball season than having five young men shot on campus. This goes far beyond basketball and at this point who cares. These kids and their loved ones have much more in their lives than college basketball. There is a lot more at risk than a losing season.
If you wanted to read about politically correct campus news, feel free to check out the Dukes' campus circulatution or the main cnn page. John's doing his job by covering the sports aspect of the horrific event, and the fact that it is a college basketball program should, by inference, indicate that the players were students as well.
Writers shouldn't have to spell everything out. It's the readers that should read the words and between the lines.
I graduated from Duquesne in 1981. Even then we occasionally had interlopers come on to campus and cause problems. The university should not allow non students to attend campus sponsored events. It is an open campuse and very hard to prevent access. However, building security can be accomplished.
I'm not a graduate of Duquesne, nor do I have any affiliation with college or its students. I just want to say, that it's sad, something like this happen. Especially at school dance. Let's get real guys. Girlfriends and Boyfriends aren’t' worth shooting over. Live your lives and enjoy your life. Stop taking life for granted before it's too late. Your so young and foolish, think before you take actions that will put you in jail for the rest of your life.
And too the families of the boys victims...my prays are with you all. God Bless our young people and be watchful of each other. Learn to Love and Live Life to the fulliest. There is enough fighting going on in the world. Enough is Enough. Stop the Maddness!!! Get an education and use your minds and voice your opinions. Your entitle to speak your mind, but not to harm anyone.
I'm aware that the main concern should be the impact of a shooting on a college campus, and concern for the victims and their families. However, this story would not even be covered if it were not sport related. Sports sell, and together with the misery that has been this program, the tragedy of both the violence and loss to the program is how this story is, and will be discussed. Saying a program is cursed doesn't mean I'm only thinking about the program, just looking at it from the sports side of things.