College star shot

Sam Ashaolu plays in Toronto in 2001. He and four other Duquesne University players were shot...

Sam Ashaolu plays in Toronto in 2001. He and four other Duquesne University players were shot yesterday. (Toronto Sun File/Fred Thornhill)

JASON PAUL and BRETT CLARKSON -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

Toronto's high school basketball community was in shock yesterday after learning one of its former stars was in critical condition in Pittsburgh after five Duquesne University players were shot during an apparent act of random violence on campus.

Pittsburgh police were searching for a lone gunman after the shootings at about 2:15 a.m. as several team members -- including former York Memorial Collegiate star Sam Ashaolu -- returned from an on-campus dance.

Authorities said two players were walking near Vickroy Hall when they encountered a man who apparently had been disruptive at the dance. The players tried to calm him down and were shot as they walked away, police said.

Fellow players who rushed to their aid were also shot.

The Toronto-born Ashaolu was among the most badly injured.

"I'm shocked. Our basketball circle is very small," said Wayne Dawkins, who coached Ashaolu at York Memorial Collegiate. "Something like that touches all of us."

ATHLETIC FAMILY

Ashaolu, who transferred to Duquesne from Lake Region State College in North Dakota this summer, is a cousin of former Houston Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon.

His brother Olu, 17, is considered one of the top teen prospects in Canada and his older brother, John, also played NCAA basketball at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Kevin Massiah, 24 -- Ashaolu's friend and former teammate at York Memorial, who now plays for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee -- first heard of the shooting on the news.

"I couldn't believe it," Massiah said. "I just thought, 'It ain't true.'... I'm just hoping and praying that he's alright."

Both Dawkins and Massiah last chatted with Ashaolu at a basketball tournament at York University on Aug. 11.

"I was wishing him luck (on going to Duquesne)," Dawkins said. "I was happy for him. He has come such a long way and was finally getting his shot at a Division 1 school. He has been to a number of different schools and has been through a lot... so it was nice to see all that perseverance paying off."

The 6-foot-7 forward worked out for the Canadian national team last spring.

"I was impressed with the way he came out and worked hard and (he) just seems like a real good kid," Canadian head coach Leo Rautins said.

Ashaolu's parents were travelling from Toronto to Pittsburgh yesterday to be with their son.

'WHAT MOTIVE?'

Also badly injured were Stuard Baldonado, a transfer from Miami Dade College and considered the Dukes' best recruit, and Kojo Mensah, a guard from Brooklyn, N.Y. Treated and released from hospital were Shawn James, the leading shot blocker in the U.S. last season, and Aaron Jackson, a guard.

University president Charles Dougherty said witnesses reported between six and 12 shots were fired, adding he had no idea what sparked the violence.

"What motive can there be for unloading a pistol into a group of students?" he said.


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