- Associated Press - Friday, January 14, 2011

Jeremy Hazell withdrew from the NBA draft last spring with two goals in mind: becoming Seton Hall’s all-time leading scorer and leading the Pirates back to the NCAA tournament.

Instead, the senior shooting guard’s season so far has been one to forget.

Three games into the campaign, Hazell broke his left wrist in a game against Alabama in the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam. Surgery and two months of rehabilitation followed.

The worst came a month later. Hazell was shot under an armpit in an attempted robbery outside his Harlem home on Christmas.

Hazell survived and this week he returned with a 23-point performance off the bench in leading the Pirates (8-9) to a rare Big East road win over DePaul.

“I just wanted to come back and help my teammates because we are struggling a little bit,” Hazell said in a telephone interview from Pittsburgh on Friday. “We played great the other night. I’m just so happy to be on the court again.”

Hazell is even happier to be alive, with vivid memories of being robbed still fresh in his mind.

Hazell was in front of his home when he was confronted by a number of men. He has no idea why he was singled out.

“I was probably the guy they saw and they just tried to rob me for what I had,” Hazell said. “That’s how it went down.”

Hazell knows one of the alleged robbers had a gun. He’s not sure about the others.

The one with the gun told him to sit down. The lean 6-foot-5 athlete didn’t.

“I didn’t cooperate,” Hazell said. “I just turned around and started running, and they started shooting.”

Hazell was hit under his arm but kept running.

“God was right there with me,” Hazell said. “After I was shot and ran, the ambulance was right in my face. There is never an ambulance (there), so I think God sent an angel over me. I’m so blessed. That was a very humbling situation, and I am so happy to be here right now.”

Hazell said the shooting has changed him.

“I didn’t think anything like that would happen to me, in front of my own home, in my own home town,” he said. “Now I know anything is possible. That was a scary, scary situation and I’m just happy to be alive and to be physically safe. One inch this way or one inch that way and it probably could have done damage. I am perfectly fine. I have no trouble. The most trouble is my hand.”

That would be his left hand. He broke the scaphoid bone in the Virgin Islands on Nov. 19 and needed surgery to repair it.

While the injury did not involve his shooting hand, it limited what he could do with a basketball. He could not dribble for weeks and his only activity was running on a treadmill, and doing limited activities with the team.

Being a spectator wasn’t fun.

“Those first few games I was doing great and the team was doing great,” said Hazell, who averaged 24 points in the opening three games. “We had a chance for a real good season and I break my wrist and then team started going up and down. It was real hard to watch that. We lost a lot of tough, close games, but I am just so proud of my teammates because they played with great intensity.”

Because he was injured so early in the season, Hazell could have asked the NCAA for a medical redshirt and come back for another year.

However, after talking with his family he decided to return after getting medical clearance.

Hazell said his decision had nothing to do with wanting to play in the NBA after this season.

“I just want to win for me and the team,” he said. “We’ve been in a little slump and now we got our first (conference) road win and we’re looking to keep it going. I am just proud to be a part of that. We’re just going to take it game by game and see what we can do. We’re trying to make a run at the NCAAs.”

With their leading scorer back, Seton Hall has a shot at surprising some teams during the rest of the Big East Conference season. The Pirates will take on No. 5 Pittsburgh (16-1) on the road Saturday.

“Pittsburgh is a tough team and we’ve never beaten them there,” Hazell said. “I think they are something like 66-3 at their place. It would be a great win to beat them there.”

Whatever happens, Hazell intends to enjoy the rest of the season.

While replacing Terry Dehere (2,494) as the Pirates’ all-time leading scorer isn’t in the cards, he’d have to average about 40 points over the 15 or so games remaining, Hazell still could finish in the top three. He has 1,884 points and will pass Mark Bryant for No. 6 on the Pirates’ career scoring list if he gets 23 points against Pittsburgh on Saturday.

When the season is over, he will start looking for a job, with the NBA being his first option.

“That’s the dream of every kid, to go to the NBA,” Hazell said. “I am hoping to get there and striving to get there. Now I am just trying to help the team win games so we can have a better season.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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