NEW YORK — It's like they never left.
Loyola Marymount transfers Corey Gaines and Hank Gathers are being counted on heavily this basketball season, and if their play here Saturday was any indication, big things are in store.
Gaines, the senior point guard, was the orchestrator and Gathers, a sophomore forward, combined with Mike Yoest to give the Lions a strong 1-2 punch up front in Saturday's 114-78 victory over Tennessee Tech.
The season opener was the first game of the Lapchick Memorial Tournament at St. John's. The Lions can prove they're for real today when they face the Redmen in the championship.
But for Gaines, playing his first game in two seasons after transferring from UCLA, Saturday's game was like a rebirth. He scored 25 points on 8-of-10 shooting, set a tournament record of 13 assists and added four steals.
More important, Gaines easily got into the flow and played nearly flawless ball at both ends.
Gaines "was typical of the whole team; once he got his bearing he was lethal," said Loyola Coach Paul Westhead. "He could make any pass he wanted and score at will."
Tech's Anthony Avery, who got into foul trouble covering Gaines, called the senior "a very good player, very experienced."
"It was hard covering him," Avery said. "When I got into foul trouble I had to back off and he could take his shot."
Tech Coach Tom Deaton said keeping up with Loyola was a high-speed chase that his team couldn't win, and that Loyola's game "has to center around the point guard."
Gaines hadn't played a varsity game since the end of the UCLA 1985-86 season. "You might as well say it's been four years," he said. "After my first practice at Loyola, I said, 'I'm reborn.' "
He said that he had butterflies at first on Saturday, but "sometimes I think that's good for a ballplayer. As I got into the flow it started to feel natural."
Gaines lighted up venerable Alumni Hall here early, and gave the Lions the lead for good on a three-pointer to make it 17-16. When he hit two free throws to make it 23-18 he already had 8 points. He finished the first half with 12 points and 10 assists.
Gathers, a sophomore transfer from USC, had a small rooting section on hand from his hometown of Philadelphia and was obviously tight. He shot 2-for-10 from the foul line in the first half but hit a trademark turnaround jumper late in the period that seemed to get him going.
He finished with 22 points, hit 9-of-16, added 6 rebounds and had two impressive dunks in the second half.
Gathers acknowledged that he had a case of the nerves. "Definitely. You probably could notice that in my free throws," he said with a laugh. "I felt like I was back in high school, missing all those free throws."
The sophomore said it takes him a while to get going in Westhead's offense because he has to rebound, then catch up with the team. "Once I get myself going it becomes easy, I just have to relax. I have a tendency to rush," he said.