COMMENTARY: Remembering Hank Gathers: 25 years ago


Photo credit/ Katlynn Whitaker

Paul Capoccia, Community Editor

On March 4th, 25 years ago, the sports community and entire nation witnessed the death of a college basketball player.

Hank Gathers, basketball phenom from Loyola Marymount, dunked an alley-oop pass before collapsing a few seconds later during a game against the University of Portland. Not long after, he passed away.

During the 1988-1989 season, Gathers had led the nation in points (32.7 PPG) and rebounds (13.7 RPG). He was the focal point of an offense coached by Paul Westhead that averaged 112.5 PPG that year. He was projected to be a sought-after NBA draft pick and a potential superstar.

Three months before his death, Gathers had been diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat. This was discovered after he collapsed for the first time in a matchup with UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 9, 1989. He was given a prescription known as a beta-blocker to treat the arrhythmia, but it drained his energy, according to teammates, and he would later lower his dosage to gain back energy for his play.

Gathers’ death shook the nation. Erik Spoelstra, now head coach of the Miami Heat, had been part of that University of Portland squad on the court 25 years ago to witness both Gathers’ incredible talent for the last time and his untimely death. He, along with sports fans, friends and family, and those who simply remember the event and coverage alike, recall the legacy of a young man who had incredible basketball talent, and to those close to him, so much more.

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