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Afghani Basketball (Men)

Big game' awaits stabbed basketball star - Dec 14, 2009

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(By the Orange County Register/Erika I. Ritchie)

It's basketball that keeps Andres Murillo (201-C-90, college: Concordia Irvine) sane.

Tonight, the former El Toro High MVP and current center for Concordia University will take the court at Pauley Pavilion against UCLA. It's the first game of the season and it will be the game of his life.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about it, said Murillo, 19. I didn't know if I would ever play again. It's a big stage at UCLA. I'm nervous and excited. I'm sure I will be overwhelmed. It's such a big game. The last time I played was before I was stabbed.

Less than six months ago, doctors and his coaches didn't know whether Murillo would survive a 31/2-inch knife wound that nicked part of his heart and deflated his lung.

On April 26, Murillo was rushed to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana after being stabbed outside an Irvine home after a confrontation at a party. Police say Abdullah Wahidi, a member of the Afghanistan National Basketball team, stabbed Murillo.

Wahidi, of West Hills, now free on $750,000 bail, is charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Sentence enhancements are for alleged use of a deadly weapon and attempting to inflict great bodily harm.

Murillo underwent four surgeries, suffered a collapsed lung and developed pneumonia. He was hospitalized for 15 days. The 6-feet-6-inch tall player lost 40 pounds after the attack.

Starting in early June and determined to make a comeback, Murillo started doing long walks and then light running to increase his lung strength. By August and September, he was conditioning with the team. He often had to sit out drills when the pain in his lung became intense and he couldn't breathe. His timed mile this year is a minute off last year's pace of 5:48.

Still his doctors have cleared him medically, which pleases Ken Ammann, head basketball coach at Concordia.

We're thankful each and every day that he's back with us, he said. It's scary what could have happened with the knife nicking his heart. This team would have never recovered from that.

Ammann said Murillo will be a huge presence for the team tonight, calling the UCLA matchup one of the hardest on this year's schedule. He said Murillo will be called on to play a lot.

We need him to be ready and he is, Ammann said. The fact that he's recovered and is out battling to help us win this year is inspiring to me, the coaching staff and the rest of the team.

But while Murillo is making a physical comeback, emotionally the incident and impending court case haunt him everyday. There have been several postponements in the case. On Sept. 18, both parties appeared for a pretrial that was continued to Nov. 13.

Murillo, whose parents live in Lake Forest, avoids talking about the incident and tries to keep his mind off what happened by staying busy with basketball and school work.

I get consumed in negative thoughts if I think about it, he said Tuesday before team practice. Most of my scars are emotional. I still think about the day a lot and I still see his face every day. I always thought about my physical recovery. I didn't think it would consume my mind.

Murillo said he receives a tremendous amount of support from his coaches, teammates, family and friends. He also gets regular counseling.

I'd give almost anything to take that day back and not have it be part of my life, he said. But I'd rather have it like this than not have it at all.   

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