Dealing With A Tragedy

Tuesday afternoon in Chapel Hill three Wolfpackers lost their lives, and NC State freshman Abdul-Malik Abu has had to deal with the tragedy.

Tuesday evening police were called to a condominium complex in Chapel Hill (NC) where they found the bodies of three people with Wolfpack ties.

Deah Barakat and his wife, Yusor Mohammad, were NC State graduates and Mohammad's sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, was a sophomore at NC State. The three were murdered in their home, and Craig Stephen Hicks has been arrested in connection with the shootings.

Barakat was an acquaintance of NC State freshman forward Abdul-Malik Abu, who is Muslim like the three victims. The duo met prior to Abu arriving at NC State, and it's obvious Barakat made a positive impression on Abu.

"I mean, I wouldn’t say we were best friends, but he was one of the people you see that would make an impact on your life right away with his happiness, his joy and his support for me before I got to State," said Abu. "Then when I got to State, he was always excited to see me. He was always ready to spread good and positive vibes. He ran many charities, and overall he was just a world-class person.

"A collection of all the people I met in the Raleigh area made me feel like home, and he happened to be one of them. I want to give my prayers out to his family, his really close friends, his relatives that watched him as a child grow into a man. It’s hard. He had his wedding not too long ago, and now his parents are going to bury him."

Abu and Barakat shared the same religious beliefs, but they also both loved basketball. Barakat was a huge Wolfpack fan, as evidenced by this interaction with UNC point guard Marcus Paige and a Twitter page full of hoops tweets.

The tragic event has certainly impacted Abu.

"It puts everything into perspective, like life and basketball," he said. "You just can’t take anything for granted. Every time we go out there and play hard, it’s a celebration of life. We’re using the gifts and talents God gave us."

Abu had to make a decision just hours after finding out about the murders. Was he going to play against Virginia? NC State faced Florida State last month without point guard Cat Barber after Barber found out the night before the game about the death of a close friend.

"I just talked to him and asked him if he was okay," Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried said of Abu. "He said he was okay. I think this morning, early, the first thought obviously there was the unknown of what happened. Because of his faith I think even my first thought was, you don't know if someone out there is targeting somebody of that faith. That was the scary part for me early this morning when I first heard and for Malik... he is a high-profile guy right here.

"I think once we learned the circumstances of actually what happened, obviously very sad, very tragic. And Malik, he was hurting but I thought... he said he wanted to play. He knew those people very well, went to their wedding. So again, very sad and so unnecessary.I thought he did fine."

Abu admitted it was tough to focus at times, and he finished with five points and two rebounds in the Wolfpack's 51-47 loss.

"It was pretty hard to trying to get my head toward the right things," said Abu. "I just wanted to go out and play basketball. I didn’t want to grieve too much during the game. I wanted to stay steadfast and keep pursuing the win.

"I just wanted to get focused, and I wanted to come out and try to win for the people who lost their lives."

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