Basketball players shot at Pittsburgh dormitory

PITTSBURGH – Five Duquesne basketball players, all but one of them new players who enrolled only this month, were shot early yesterday morning during an apparent act of random violence on campus. Two players were in critical condition at a hospital.

Pittsburgh police were searching for a man believed to have done the shootings, and were investigating whether anyone else was involved. The shootings occurred about 2:15 a.m. as several players were returning from an on-campus party at the student union and others were sitting on benches outside Vickroy Hall, the dormitory where the shootings took place.

The players most badly injured were 6-foot-7 forward Sam Ashaolu, a transfer from Lake Region State College and a cousin of former Houston Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon, and Stuard Baldonado, a 6-7 transfer from Miami Dade College who was considered the Dukes’ best recruit.

Ashaolu is from Toronto, and his parents were traveling to Pittsburgh yesterday to be with their son.

Treated and released from Mercy Hospital were 6-10 Shawn James, the nation’s leading shot blocker last season at Northeastern University before transferring to Duquesne; Kojo Mensah, a guard who averaged nearly 17 points last season at Siena before transferring, and Aaron Jackson, a guard who is one of only two returning players from Duquesne’s 3-24 team of last season.

New Duquesne coach Ron Everhart, formerly at Northeastern, had rebuilt the Duquesne program almost from scratch after being hired in March by bringing in 10 new recruits – one of the most sweeping upheavals of any Division I program in recent years.

According to police, two players were returning from a social function on campus when they encountered a man who apparently had been disruptive at the party. After the players tried to calm down the man, the players began walking away, only to be shot. Several other players who were nearby rushed to their aid, also to be shot.

James, expected to be Duquesne’s top player when he becomes eligible in the 2007-08 season and an NBA prospect, was shot in the foot but no bones were broken. Mensah was believed to have been shot in the shoulder. Jackson was shot in the hand.

The shooter was not a Duquesne student, police said. Duquesne is located in downtown Pittsburgh.

“First and foremost, we are concerned about our students and are praying that each of them has a full recovery,” Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare said in a statement. “We will offer support and services to the victims and their families, as well as to our other students who may have been affected by this tragic incident. This type of situation has never occurred before on Duquesne’s campus. The university is cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation.”

Several students who were distraught after witnessing the shootings were being counseled yesterday.