Tyquone Greer was determined not to become a victim of the inner-city violence that he said claimed six of his friends near his neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.
Nevertheless, it found him in his senior year of high school. Greer suffered a gunshot wound to his left leg that delayed — but did not derail — his goal of playing Division I basketball.
Today, the 6-6 forward has settled into Hofstra for his junior year after transferring from Daytona State, a two-year college in Florida. He’s finally a D-I player, averaging 6.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in 22 minutes in his first three games.
“It was a dream come true. I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long for it to finally come,’’ he said recently.
Greer was a senior at Chicago’s Orr Academy when the shooting occurred on March 9, 2014. He had turned 19 nine days earlier and his team was in the playoffs. Two reasons to celebrate. “I went out to a party, which I normally didn’t do,’’ he said.
He had lost his six friends in rapid succession, beginning in 2012, and on this night, his own life was in danger.
Police told the Chicago Tribune that a gunman opened fire in the basement of a residence on the 4900 block of West Race Avenue in Chicago, about 10 minutes from Greer’s home. Six were injured. Greer was shot just above the ankle.
“I hobbled upstairs. The house was in chaos,’’ Greer said. “Everybody’s panicking. A couple of friends came in, took me up to the third floor and tied a shirt around my leg until the ambulance came.
“It didn’t really hit me until I was sitting in the ambulance. I started to really be panicked. Tears started to come down my eyes. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play basketball or not. Once I finally got to the hospital, they told me it was good that the bullet came in and went out. They told me everything looked good; it missed the bones.’’
Police apprehended the shooter, 22-year-old Patrick Calhoun, who is serving a seven-year prison term at the Western Illinois Correctional Center, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Greer said Calhoun was unknown to him and his friends.
Greer left the hospital with crutches but quickly set them aside. He wanted to rejoin his high school team. “He didn’t let it stop him, I’ll put it that way,’’ said Mary Ann Williams, Greer’s grandmother. “He didn’t let it stop him from doing what he had to do.’’
Greer’s team was in the super sectionals, with a trip to the state Class 3A Final Four on the line. “The first game I didn’t play. The second game I tried to come back and was in too much pain,’’ he said.
Then came the third game against North Chicago. The score was tied at 68 in the final seconds.
“I was sitting on the bench thinking to myself, ‘Man, I’m supposed to be out there,’ ” Greer said. “I went up to my coach and said, ‘Put me in, put me in.’ Eventually, he put me in.’’
Greer managed only one field-goal attempt — a three-pointer with three seconds left that turned out to be the winning basket. “It was one of the best feelings ever,’’ he said.
Greer’s high school career ended with a loss in a state semifinal. He still felt pain in his leg, and the idea of going D-I was put on hold. His grades also needed work, and he went to Daytona. But his ordeal was not over.
“My whole freshman year at Daytona State, that’s all I thought about every day,’’ Greer said of the shooting. “I sat in my room after practice or after school. That’s what I was thinking about. How [am I] still here? How [am I] still able to play basketball?’’
Daytona coach Ryan Ridder said, “I think he saw his life flash in front of him. He thought that basketball was taken from him forever. I think being able to develop that confidence that he could get back to the level that he could potentially be was probably the greatest challenge for us, especially that first year.’’
Greer averaged 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds and led the team to the Final Four of the NJCAA in his sophomore year at Daytona, and at the end of the season, he was in demand. “He heard from everyone,’’ Ridder said. “DePaul, Florida Gulf Coast, Georgia Southern, there’s 15 or 20.’’
Greer came to the attention of Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich, who said, “He’s a well-rounded basketball player. He can shoot, he can dribble, he can pass, very good basketball IQ. He could be our best defender.’’
Mihalich didn’t need to hear much about the shooting incident. “It was understood that I understood,’’ he said.
Greer said Hofstra has not seen him at his best — yet. “I haven’t really got my strength back in my leg,’’ he said. “I was very athletic; that was a big part of my game. My leg is not as strong as it should be, but I did recover well.’
Despite what happened in his neighborhood, Chicago remains his home. Said Greer, “I love my city.’’