NCAA BK

Arizona's Parrom has solid return after ordeal

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)

His mother dying, his grandmother already dead, Kevin Parrom just needed a break.

What he got instead was a jealous man he didn't know firing a gun at him.

One bullet went through his left hand. The other lodged in his right knee, leaving his lower leg eerily numb.

The flash of the gun still blinking in his eyes, Parrom lay on the ground stunned and bleeding, his thoughts not of his grandmother, mother, his promising basketball career.

He was just happy to be alive.

''It was a blessing just to be breathing,'' he said.

Less than two months after being shot at close range, Parrom is doing a lot more than breathing.

He's playing basketball again, to the surprise of nearly everyone around him.

The junior had hoped to be healthy enough to play against St. John's on Thursday at Madison Square Garden for a bittersweet homecoming in New York City, where he was shot and his mother died.

Still, it was an iffy timetable considering everything he had been through.

Parrom surprised even himself by coming back earlier.

Despite participating in his first full practice just two days earlier, Parrom rose from the bench 4 1-2 minutes into Sunday's game against Ball State, bringing the raucous McKale Center crowd to their feet with him.

The 6-foot-6 swingman provided an emotional lift to his teammates and looked a lot like good-at-both-ends player of a season ago, not someone who had been shot less than two months earlier. He played 18 minutes, scoring six points, including a 3-pointer to key a decisive run, with four rebounds and two assists in the 15th-ranked Wildcats' 73-63 win.

Leaving to another standing ovation in the closing seconds, Parrom headed to the bench and was greeted with a long, heartfelt hug from his coach, Sean Miller.

''I'm just grateful that he's on our team and it's just really awesome to see him out there,'' Miller said. ''I think every coach or fan who's followed his story, if they would have watched what he did today, they would have the same feeling.''

This was supposed to be Parrom's breakout season at Arizona.

Star teammate Derrick Williams had left for the NBA and Parrom had spent the summer honing his game so he'd be ready to help fill the void.

Two pulls of a trigger and the death of two people close to him altered his course, left him trying to get his body and his life back together.

Parrom's ordeal started with the death of his grandmother over the summer. Then came an urgent call in September from his mother, Lisa Williams, saying her breast cancer was getting bad. Parrom's mother had never told him to come, so he knew it was serious and rushed back to New York.

On. Sept. 23, after spending more than nine hours with his mother at the hospital, Parrom went back to his father's apartment in the Bronx, where he talked to one of his mother's longtime friends for a few hours.

Around 1 a.m., a gunman appeared at the door and started firing. Struck twice in a matter of seconds, Parrom reached down to find out why his leg was numb and saw blood pouring out.

''I can't even describe it. I never thought I'd go through a situation like that. It was just shocking,'' Parrom said. ''It was a blur, kind of like a dream. Everything was blurry and, to this day, I still can't believe what happened.''

Parrom's troubles weren't over yet.

The 21-year-old returned to New York the first week of October to speak with a grand jury and identify the suspect in the shooting, Jason Gonzalez of the Bronx, whom Parrom says was apparently jealous. Gonzalez was charged with attempted murder in the incident.

While there, Parrom got to spend time with his mother, who was having trouble breathing.

He returned to Tucson a second time, but didn't stay long.

On Oct. 16, Lisa Williams died after a two-year fight.

Parrom attended her funeral and came back to the desert a third time, this time with a resolute will to use everything he had been through to become better, on and off the basketball court.

''I think about it, just not as much as I used to,'' Parrom said. ''I'm just using my mother and my grandmother's death as motivation to see what I can do.''

Parrom's bid to return to the court started right after the shooting.

He spent the first two days in the hospital recovering, then went straight back to Tucson so he could work with Arizona's training staff. Parrom's lower leg remained numb for nearly two weeks - the bullet caused nerve and tissue damage - before the feeling finally started to return.

The rehabilitation process was grueling, starting with range of motion exercises and underwater treadmill work to walking and, recently, running. Parrom took part in his first full practice on Friday and felt good enough after Saturday's to play against Ball State, giving him a head start on Thursday's homecoming.

''It became very apparent that he was very comfortable, more comfortable than we knew,'' Miller said. ''Every time he goes out there I think he'll be a little bit better, but it was safe for him to be out there. We were all on the same page. He wanted to be out there.''

Parrom's physical recovery is still a work in progress, as his emotional recuperation.

He has been too busy with schoolwork and rehab to spend much time thinking about his troubles, but there are times, usually when he's alone, that he thinks about everything that has happened to him over the past few months.

Parrom could get down, wonder why all this misfortune targeted him in such a short period of time.

He's just not wired that way. His mother made sure of that.

''My mother, she wouldn't want me thinking about it,'' Parrom said. ''When she passed, she didn't even know I had gotten shot. I kept it away from her. But I don't think about it much because I know she wouldn't want me dwelling on it. That's one thing she taught me and my brother, if something happens, move on from it.''

Parrom has done just that and is not only alive, but ready to thrive.

Tagged: Arizona, Derrick Williams, Kevin Parrom

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