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Blood Brothers

A week after five players were shot, Duquesne's basketball team finds a new unity

The defensiveshell drill was three-on-three instead of four-on-four, and rebounding drillswere only two-on-two instead of three-on-three. Even though he was shorthanded,Duquesne basketball coach Ron Everhart was adamant about getting his team backon the court as soon as possible after five players were shot leaving a campusdance on Sept. 17. "The stress has been overwhelming," says Everhart,who makes several trips to the hospital each day to visit Sam Ashaolu, the oneplayer who remains there. "I think right now it's important for our guys toget back to a routine."

One of the woundedplayers, Aaron Jackson, who was shot in the wrist, has already begunpracticing. And two others, Kojo Mensah (arm and shoulder) and Shawn James(foot), are back watching practice and egging on their teammates during windsprints. Last Friday, Stuard Baldonado, who was shot in the arm and back, leftthe hospital in a wheelchair; only Ashaolu, a cousin of former NBA star HakeemOlajuwon, still needs 24-hour supervision. Ashaolu, who was shot twice in thehead, has begun speaking, and his condition was upgraded from critical toserious on Friday. (Two suspects, who do not go to the school, have beenarrested and charged with five counts of aggravated assault. A female Duquesnestudent who is accused of helping the men get into the party, even though sheknew they were armed, was charged with reckless endangerment and criminalconspiracy.)

For the Dukes, ateam that hired a new coach and has only two returning players since going3--24 last year, the tragedy has brought renewed focus on the court and afeeling of unity off it. Everhart says that although he has only 11 players touse in drills, "ironically, practice is more intense than before." OnSept. 20, at the first team meeting since the shooting, "the morale wentthrough the roof," he says, when Mensah and James walked in. "You couldsee guys right away smiling and sitting up straight." Kieron Achara, one ofthe returning players, says that the shooting reminded him of what a privilegeit is to play basketball, and he hopes a heightened sense of purpose will colorthe season. "I have teammates who would love to be on the court doing thethings I'm doing," Achara says. "So I'm doing it for them."

Still, the healinghas just begun. Even though Achara wasn't hurt in the shooting, the juniorforward from Scotland has been having trouble sleeping, and he's taking upprofessors on their offers of extra time to complete assignments. During onesleepless night last week, Achara called Jackson, the only other returningplayer. "Sometimes you just need to talk to someone," Achara says."Anything to take our minds off what happened."



BACK ON COURT The Dukes resumed practice, while Baldonado (top) left the hospital with an assist from his coach.