After Shooting, Hazell Still Leery of Returning Home

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.Jeremy Hazell admits it’s still hard to go home.

“It’s a little scary going back but that’s where I’m from so I just can’t not go back,” he said last week after a workout with the Nets. “My mom’s there. I got a lot of family, so I try to stay away from it but when I gotta see my moms, I gotta go back to the same place.”

Hazell’s memories of the Carver Houses on E. 104th St. in Harlem include a potentially fatal event from which he was lucky to escape.

In a story first reported by SNY.tv, Hazell was walking home after a party on Christmas Day when four unknown men approached him in front of the building. One man told Hazell to sit down on a bench, or he would shoot him.

Hazell shoved the would-be robber and then ran off down the street, but not before a slug penetrated his side and exited his body.

Hazell has never seen the men since.

“I never found out who did it, it was dark that day,” he said. “But I just try not to think about it and just hold my head up high and just live.”

After missing 13 games at Seton Hall last season because of a broken wrist, the 6-foot-5 Hazell is now trying to make the most of his life by squeezing in as many NBA workouts as possible before Thursday’s NBA Draft.

He has worked out for Golden State, Sacramento, Phoenix, Memphis, New York, New Jersey and Minnesota, and has two remaining workouts with Atlanta on Monday and the Lakers on Wednesday.

An interesting reunion occurred at the Knicks workout when Hazell ran into former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez, whom Hazell still stands by despite his firing from Seton Hall after the 2009-10 season.

“He’s a great guy, I love Bobby,” Hazell said. “He was at my Knicks’ workout. He surprised me and came up, I haven’t seen him for a while. He’s doing great, so I’m happy for him.”

He added: “He was a great coach for me. I was there three years with him, I wish I could’ve had the fourth year with him. But things happen, so you gotta adjust. And I did that. So it was just a great four years at Seton Hall, and I’ll never take it back.”

At the Nets workout, general manager Billy King indicated Hazell was a borderline second-rounder.

“I don’t know if any of them are NBA ready,” he said. “The one think is they all have a chance to maybe make a roster. To contribute, we had Derrick Favors here who was drafted No. 3. He played a little bit. And I don’t know if Jeremy’s in that category.

“That’s no knock on Jeremy, but the one skill is I think he can shoot the ball really well.”

Though Hazell enjoyed working out for the Knicks and Nets because they are the local teams, the road workouts mean he doesn’t have to stay with his mother, Debbie, in Harlem.

“It’s a little scary, but I gotta deal with it,” he said.

The road, by contrast, is safer.

“The hotels, man, that’s my place,” he said. “We get there a day early. They give you a lot of good food and rest and drinks, whatever you need. So I’ve been taking advantage of that.”

DraftExpress.com doesn’t project Hazell to be among the 60 players drafted Thursday, but Seth Cohen, Hazell’s agent, believes his client will be selected.

“I have gotten great feedback from each and every team he has worked out for and I believe we will hear his name called on Thursday evening,” Cohen said by email. “It will be a hell of a comeback for a kid who was dealt a bad hand, to say the least, this past year as a shooting victim in a robbery attempt and suffering a broken wrist. When Thursday arrives he will have reminded nine different teams of his offensive talents and shooting capabilities. Jeremy can get buckets – plain and simple. He has worked hard throughout the entire process –  never once making excuses or feeling sorry for himself.

“Jeremy is a true warrior. He deserves success as much as anyone.”

And if Hazell does end up hearing his name called Thursday night, his life will take a major turn and he would be able to move his mother to a different, perhaps safer location.

“It would mean the world, that all the sacrifice and hard work that Jeremy’s mom endured to be able to provide for her family would now allow her in her later years to have it a little easier and have the ability to treat herself to some of the luxuries she was never able to afford before,” Cohen said. “It would be the best way possible for Jeremy to say, ‘You deserve this Mom – thank you for everything.'”

(Photo courtesy NJ.com)

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