EDMOND, Okla. (AP) -Just waking up in the morning is a little bit more special these days for Zabian Dowdell.
As he travels the country to prove himself worthy of being chosen in this month's NBA draft, the former Virginia Tech guard carries with him the memory of a tragic morning when 32 people were killed by a suicidal gunman on his college campus.
``It was something you can't prepare for, and it's definitely something that will stick with me for the rest of my life,'' Dowdell said after participating in a draft workout for the New Orleans Hornets on Friday. ``It's still hard to believe that something like that happened, and I just try my best to make the most out of every day because you never know if you'll be here tomorrow or the next minute.''
Dowdell said he was in Blacksburg, Va., but not on campus when student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 27 students and five faculty members on April 16. He learned from his agent that there had been a shooting.
``By the time that I turned on the TV, man, it was like 33 or 32 people killed. It was definitely something that was very shocking to me,'' the 6-foot-3 guard said.
Dowdell, who led the Hokies with a 17.4-point scoring average, said he didn't know any of the victims but has friends who did.
``Basically all I tried to do was be there for them and be as supportive as I could,'' Dowdell said.
He also donated $5,000 to help with victims' recovery after the shootings.
``I think it just talks about his experience and the type of person that he is,'' Hornets coach Byron Scott said. ``I think it also tells you that he really feels that that university has really helped him tremendously and he feels that he's trying to give back in some shape or form.''
Dowdell called Blacksburg ``a great sports town'' and ``a welcoming community'' where everyone was there for each other after the tragedy. He said he was most recently back at Virginia Tech for graduation.
``It was a pretty bad mood up there, but I think it's gotten better over time,'' Dowdell said. ``As we all know, time heals things and Virginia Tech will be back to normal.''
With Dowdell leading the way, Virginia Tech made its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996 last season after beating Duke on its home floor and sweeping the regular-season series from North Carolina - including one win when the Tar Heels were the nation's No. 1 team. Dowdell had a career-high 33 points in the Hokies' second win against North Carolina.
Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said Dowdell has some versatility from playing both guard positions in college but his height would be a factor in where he'd play in the NBA.
``We kind of view him in that role of a combination-type guard who can pass and make decisions and handle the ball, and we think those are traits that are going to make him effective at either spot,'' Bower said. ``But I think initially you may look at him closer as a point guard for right now. The size would be a bigger asset to him at that spot.''
Dowdell started all but four of the 122 games he played at Virginia Tech and averaged 14.6 points for his career as the Hokies played two years in the Big East and two in the ACC.
``One advantage I think I have over a lot of guys is four years of experience,'' Dowdell said. ``I started four years in two of the toughest conferences in the nation. I definitely think that's something that will work well to my advantage.''

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