Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 2/19/12
HOUSTON -- The bullet traveled a mile. Its flight took it through the woods where some guys were taking target practice. It missed an untold number of trees and when it exploded into 13-year-old Nicholas Tijerina's chest, the boy said he didn't feel a thing. "I spun and hit the ground," he said. Nicholas was trying out for the basketball team on a temporary outdoor court at Harwell Middle School near Edinburg, Texas, a rural town near the southern tip of the state. He remembers doing a three-man weave, and he remembers hitting the ground. But the next thing Nicholas knew, he was paralyzed from the waist down. His doctors don't think Nicholas will walk again. That was in the Dec. 12. It has been two months of intense physical therapy and Sunday night was Nicholas' first real outing since the shooting. The Houston Rockets invited him and his family to their game against the Utah Jazz. He toured the locker room before the game and met the players. He got autographs. He even played a game of wheelchair basketball against Rockets forward Luis Scola on Thursday. "He cheated," Nicholas said. Nicholas had never been to an NBA game before. He was struck by the size of the players, but he pointed out that otherwise they seemed like regular guys. His mom, Donna Tijerina, had a similar reaction, especially to Scola. "I was really surprised by how down to earth he was," she said. Donna was feeling a little overwhelmed by it all, though. The last two months had drained her. This was her first real night out since the shooting, too. She flagged down Rockets coach Kevin McHale as he walked by. She wanted to make sure Nicholas got his autograph. "You gonna cheer loud?" McHale asked. "We need it. Believe me." A little levity was a lot of levity. "We've been in (a hospital) since it happened," she said. "We're going berserk looking at four walls." Sunday was a happy day, full of lights and music and dancing and basketball, but Donna fought back tears while describing that day in December. She had been at work when she got a call saying her son had been shot and was having trouble moving. The bullet had punctured one of Nicholas' lungs and lodged itself in his back. It didn't hit his spinal cord, but came close enough to damage it. When she arrived at the hospital, Nicholas looked like a ghost. "When I saw him, he was the color white, completely," she said. "It was really, really bad." Another boy, 14-year-old Edson Amaro, also was hit and lost a kidney because of it. Police questioned the men who were taking target practice, and charged a 36-year-old competitive target shooter named Dustin Wesley Cook with felony aggravated assault for firing the bullet that hit Edson. Police haven't filed any charges relating to the bullet that struck Nicholas, but recovered the bullet from Nicholas' back and are performing ballistics testing on it. Donna said she has no immediate plans to pursue civil action against anyone, and has been focused on getting her son out of the hospital. That has been a tedious process. He is learning to perform basic functions from within a wheelchair. Getting dressed, using the bathroom, getting in and out of bed. From his courtside seats at Toyota Center, Nicholas often pushed down on the chair's handles to lift his body for a better view. Or maybe just because he could. "He's worked so hard to get here," Donna said. He speaks matter-of-factly, the way kids do. He got shot. He spun. He fell. He woke up. His favorite sport is football, but he loves Scola. Nicholas' head was on a swivel Sunday night, taking it all in. Scola was struck by his spirit. "I don't have a message for him," Scola said. "He's got a lot of messages for us."
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Winners and losers from NFL Saturday in Week 15

Lions break out Rockettes celebration after touchdown

Steve Kerr: Draymond Green shoulder issues ‘a little bit concerning’

Dodgers reacquire Matt Kemp from Braves for Adrian Gonzalez

Lakers’ Caldwell-Pope to miss games due to legal agreement

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

WATCH: Boise State gets too cute on Statue of Liberty play

Bill Cowher has no interest in coaching New York Giants

Report: Yankees re-sign CC Sabathia to $10 million contract

Baker Mayfield has high praise for Georgia defense

Is Vince McMahon looking to bring back the XFL?

Conor McGregor wants 'a real fight', says MMA is next up for him

Sports & Politics Intersect: Mr. Jones goes to Washington

The 'It's the most wonderful bowl of the year' quiz

NHL Weekender: Bolts keep striking, Preds on the hunt

Chargers are the AFC team no one wants to play in January

Donald Trump's quotes vs. the sports world in 2017

Five MLB teams that should trade for Manny Machado

The 'It's always chilly in Indiana' quiz

NFL puts safety entirely on players, again

Eight NFL teams who simply need to start over

Most important player on every team in each bowl matchup

NFL Week 15 Predictions

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Boogie, Z-Bo reach out and punch someone

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Sports & Politics Intersect: Mr. Jones goes to Washington

NHL Weekender: Bolts keep striking, Preds on the hunt

The 'It's the most wonderful bowl of the year' quiz

Donald Trump's quotes vs. the sports world in 2017

Chargers are the AFC team no one wants to play in January

The 'It's always chilly in Indiana' quiz

NFL puts safety entirely on players, again

Most important player on every team in each bowl matchup

NFL Week 15 Predictions

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Boogie, Z-Bo reach out and punch someone

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker