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After shooting, Marshall coach working on comeback

2/28/2014

Shawn Harrington has dreamed about only one thing since shielding his daughter from gunfire, being shot twice and suffering a spinal injury which left him paralyzed last month.

The dreams aren't about the two offenders who mistook Harrington's car for someone else's while Harrington drove his daughter to school on Chicago's West Side on the morning of Jan. 30. The dreams aren't about the bullet that was found in his teenage daughter's headrest afterward. The dreams aren't about how he has months of rehabilitation ahead of him, and there's no guarantee he will ever walk again.

No, Harrington's dreams have been about basketball.

"God has put me in a good place, accepted what happened," the 38-year-old Harrington said in a phone interview from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago on Friday. "I'm not sure what his mission for me is in all this, but the fact is it happened and I've been able to move forward. I don't dwell on it all. I haven't had any depression. I haven't had any nightmares or dreams about that day. All my dreams have been about basketball."

As strange as that would be to most, that actually wouldn't surprise anyone who knows Harrington. He's had a love for the game his entire life. He was a star point guard at Marshall High School on the West Side, played at New Mexico State and is currently an assistant basketball coach at Marshall. He also works at the school as a classroom aide for special education students.

Harrington planned to reach back to what made him an elite basketball player and use that to help him walk again.

"One of the first things they said was therapy was going to be three times a day and for an hour a day," Harrington said. "I looked it as something I did being a student-athlete practicing twice a day for three hours a day. I think it gives me that drive to push hard and work myself a little harder.

"It's a slow process, but I'm in it for the long haul. Everything is not going to happen tomorrow. Miracles happen. Anything short of walking will be a miracle. They just said I have an incomplete spiral cord injury. I do have a good chance of walking again. It's pretty much up to me. If I want to walk again, I will walk again."

Rus Bradburd, who recruited Harrington to New Mexico State, remembered Harrington as one of the toughest players on the court and one of the kindest off it.

"I think one of the things about great Chicago Public League point guards is they're gritty and tough," said Bradburd, who is from Chicago and is now an author and teaches writing at New Mexico State. "They're all known for their grittiness and toughness.

"He was also a really affectionate kid. He was the kind of guy who hugged guys when he left practice. On the court, he would be mean and tough. He would change utterly when he was off the court. He was open emotionally where a lot of kids are closed off."

Harrington's personality and outlook on life hasn't changed over the years. He has plenty of reasons to be angry and depressed. His mother was also shot and killed during a home invasion in 2003. Yet, Harrington has leaned on his faith, family, friends and students at Marshall to remain positive.

"I have a great support system with the family and everyone around me," Harrington said. "All the well wishes and the love and support around the city, it's been so unbelievable. I prayed on it a lot. God kind of has me in a higher place.

"The fact my daughter is OK, being able to get back to being a teenager, it helps me to move forward. Just worry about the task at hand -- just getting better. With all the love and support that has come from everywhere, I didn't know I touched so many people in a positive standing. That's been the biggest thing. That's helped me to keep positive with the situation."

Marshall athletic director Dorothy Gaters has known Harrington for 20-plus years, but she is still astonished by his attitude.

"It's amazing and also inspiring," Gaters said. "We can't feel sorry for him because he's not feeling sorry for himself. He's in a great mood. He's saying this is a minor setback for a major comeback. That's his slogan."

The Chicago Police Department has arrested one of the two offenders involved in the incident. Deandre Thompson, 21, was arrested on Feb. 5 and charged with two felony counts of attempted first-degree murder and one felony count of aggravated battery/discharge firearm.

Bradburd and Gaters have been working together to raise money for Harrington. Some of his medical bills will be paid for by the Chicago Public Schools, but he will also have other expenses.

A charity basketball game which will include former Marshall and Public League players will be held at Marshall at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Donations can also be made to the Shawn Harrington Recovery Fund at Fifth Third Bank, 2710 N. Narragansett Ave., Chicago, IL 60639.

Harrington will make his first public appearance at the basketball game on Saturday. He couldn't wait to finally stop dreaming about basketball and get back around it.

"I don't know if I can put that into words," Harrington said. "I'm so excited being able to go there to the charity game and say thanks to everyone who have come up and shown me love and support.

"I can't wait to go back to Marshall and do what I love to do -- enhance and change the lives of kids in the inner city. That's what the deal is for me. I know I will make a full recovery from this. Whatever message God wants me to spread I'm fine with. Hopefully, I can continue to help these kids and spread their horizons."