Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Washington Wizards rookie Andray Blatche was shot in the chest in an apparent carjacking attempt by two masked men early Sunday morning in Alexandria, Va.

Blatche was listed in good condition last night, according to a team source, and the 19-year-old should be released from Inova Fairfax Hospital within “a matter of days.”

According to police, Blatche and his companions were driving to his home at about 6 a.m. Sunday when they observed a light-colored van following them. They came to a stop in the 5100 block of Knapp Place, and two men wearing masks got out of the van and approached the car in which Blatche was a passenger.

One man, armed with a gun, ordered Blatche out of the car. Before Blatche could comply, the man shot him.

One of Blatche’s friends drove him to the 3500 block of Duke Street and called 911. Blatche was transported by helicopter to the hospital.

No arrests have been made.

Ernie Grunfeld, Wizards president of basketball operations, said Blatche is expected to make a full recovery.

“The most important thing is that he is going to be healthy,” Grunfeld said yesterday. “Our number one concern is his health. We are encouraged by his progress, and the reports are promising. This is something that you don’t expect to happen, and it’s scary. We’re just glad that he is improving.”

Blatche will not require surgery, and Grunfeld said he was able to eat and walk yesterday.

The Wizards selected the 6-foot-11 Blatche out of South Kent (Conn.) School with the 49th pick in the June draft and signed him to a two-year contract.

Wizards captain Antawn Jamison and most of his teammates have been conducting practices at MCI Center in preparation for training camp, which begins Oct. 4 in Richmond. Blatche is not expected to be ready to play by then, and it is questionable whether he will be available for the start of the regular season Nov. 4.

The Wizards have the option of placing Blatche on the roster of the Roanoke Dazzle, their affiliate in the NBA Development League.

Jamison, who said he has been impressed with Blatche’s play, expressed relief that he is expected to make a full recovery.

“That’s the most important thing, that he’s going to be healthy,” Jamison said. “He loves the game of basketball so much, and this is not going to end his career before it takes off. He has a promising career ahead of him. For now, we’re just going to hold the fort down until he is ready. This is just a setback. We’re praying for him.”

In his last year of high school, Blatche averaged 27.5 points, 16.0 rebounds and 6.0 blocks as South Kent posted a 32-9 record. Blatche was one of 10 finalists for the Naismith Award, which is given to the nation’s top high school player.

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