Loyola Marymount's Hank Gathers, the sixth-leading collegiate basketball scorer in the nation, died Sunday after collapsing during the Lions' West Coast Conference tournament semifinal game against the University of Portland.
Just after Gathers had made a slam dunk to give his team a 25-13 lead, he trotted to midcourt, put his hands on his knees and crumpled to the floor of Loyola Marymount's Albert Gersten Pavilion in Westchester.
The athlete's right arm was pinned under his body as he went into convulsions, and he rolled over and got to his hands and knees before collapsing again.
The estimated crowd of 4,000, which had wildly cheered his dunk, sat in stunned silence as the clock stopped with 13:34 to play in the first half.
Gathers was surrounded by three physicians and his sobbing mother, Lucille, who screamed for help and slammed her fist on the hardwood floor.
"I first noticed that Hank was in trouble just as he went to the floor," said Portland Coach Larry Steele. "It all happened so fast. Within two seconds, everybody realized that Hank needed help."
Gathers, 23, was taken off the court on a stretcher, and paramedics administered emergency treatment--which included defibrillation--as teammate and boyhood friend Bo Kimble and Coach Paul Westhead stood by.
Twenty minutes later, Gathers was taken to Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:55 p.m., Loyola Marymount Athletic Director Brian Quinn said.
"We tried resuscitating him for over an hour and we were unable to generate any activity," cardiologist Dr. Mason Weiss said. He said an autopsy was scheduled.
WCC Commissioner Michael Gilleran announced late Sunday that the remainder of the tournament was canceled. He said that Loyola Marymount would receive the league's automatic NCAA tournament bid based on its regular season record.
"We're just trying to focus on what ought to take precedence--something more important than winning, or losing, a ballgame," Gilleran said.
Gathers had a checkered medical history.
On Dec. 9, he blacked out for a moment while at the free throw line during a game against UC Santa Barbara. He appeared to hyperventilate after he came to, and then walked off the floor.
After a week of tests, doctors were unable to pinpoint a cause of his blackout, and he was put on medication to regulate his heartbeat. Gathers said doctors had felt that an accelerated heart rate may have led to his fainting.
He came back to play on Dec. 30, scoring 22 points and getting 11 rebounds against Niagara. In January, though, Gathers complained that his body felt sluggish and persuaded doctors to reduce his medication.
Two days later, he scored 27 points and had 12 rebounds against LaSalle, in a triumphant return to his native Philadelphia.
At 6-feet-7, 210 pounds, Gathers was an imposing specimen, who was projected as a high NBA draft choice after this, his senior year.
Gathers averaged 29 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this season, and he holds career school and WCC scoring records. Gathers led the nation in both scoring and rebounding a year ago, averaging 32.7 points and 13.7 rebounds per game. It was only the second time that anyone had led both categories in the same year.
He was one of the few players in collegiate history to score more than 2,500 points and get more than 1,000 rebounds.
Gathers had been recruited by USC Coach Stan Morrison and played there for one season before transferring to Loyola Marymount when Morrison was ousted in favor of current Trojan Coach George Raveling.
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