December 4, 2020

Remembering Hank Gathers

It was 20 years ago yesterday that we lost one of the best college basketball players of all time in Hank Gathers. Gathers left Philly and the east coast so he could go play for little ole Loyola Marymount and ex-pro head coach Paul Westhead. Gathers alongside Bo Kimble would end making the Loyola Marymount Lions a must see college basketball team and a pure joy to watch. In the 1988–89 season, he became only the second player in history to lead NCAA Division I in scoring and rebounding in the same season. Gathers averaged 32.7 points and 13.7 rebounds per game. The next season would be his last because on March 4, 1990 he collapsed with 13:34 left in the first half of a West Coast Conference tournament quarterfinal game against Portland. Hank collapsed just after scoring on an alley-oop dunk that put the Lions up 25–13.  He was declared dead on arrival at a nearby hospital at the age of 23. An autopsy found that he suffered from a heart-muscle disorder, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

I remember watching this specimen of a human play a few times in my days and I truly have never seen a team play the way the Lions did. They typically shot the ball within 10 seconds of gaining possession and their defense was a full court press designed to force their opponents into a frenzied up-and-down game. Loyola Marymount own the records for the 5 highest scoring games in NCAA history including the blowout of reigning National Champ Michigan 149-115 in the second round of the 1990 tourney.

Hank was so good at everything on the court except for foul shooting. When he finally had enough of those woes he started practicing shooting his free throws left handed. He became proficient and increased his FT% considerably because nothing was going to beat Hank.

Hank’s life unfortunately ended too early and he is just another example of how life is really too short.

Check out the cut of the 30 for 30 story to be aired on ESPN:

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