LAST SATURDAY morning, just hours before five players were wounded in an on-campus shooting, the Duquesne basketball team went to a cookout thrown by the Red and Blue Crew, a student fan group that had been largely dormant for years. That students wanted to hang out with the team was a testament to the newfound optimism surrounding the program, which has suffered through 12 straight losing seasons. Last year, when the Dukes went 3--24, a home game drew about 200 students.
But last March, Ron Everhart was named Duquesne's coach. Everhart, who had rebuilt a sagging program at Northeastern, promised an up-tempo style and brought in 10 players. "With so many new guys, we've been preaching the team concept," says Everhart. After the cookout the players went to the St. Francis football game, then to College Bash '06, a party hosted by the Duquesne Black Student Union, which is where the trouble began.
Duquesne, located in downtown Pittsburgh, is patrolled 24 hours a day by a 26-officer campus police force; I.D. checks are common. But the party was open to other schools, and I.D.'s weren't checked. Police said a man who is not a Duquesne student and had been at the party exchanged words with the players on Academic Walk, a campus hangout. He pulled out at least one gun (some witnesses reported seeing two) and opened fire, wounding two players. Three more players were shot as they rushed to the scene to help. "When all this senseless stuff broke out we had some real courageous and brave young men who really supported their fellow students," says Everhart. Players took off their shirts to make tourniquets; one dragged a wounded teammate to his car and rushed him to the hospital.
The most seriously injured player is Sam Ashaolu, a cousin of former NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon; he was in critical condition on Monday. Stuard Baldonado was in fair condition, and Kojo Mensah, a transfer from Siena, was hospitalized but his condition was not released. Shawn James and Aaron Jackson were treated and released. (As of Monday no arrests had been made.)
On Sunday night the Dukes again came together as a team--to attend Mass in the campus chapel and pray for their teammates. "Our only concern is for the kids and their families," says Everhart. "Everything else seems so irrelevant now."