WESTCHESTER — A statue of the late Loyola Marymount University basketball star Hank Gathers was unveiled Feb. 29 outside of Gersten Pavilion, four days before the 30th anniversary of his death.
Paul Westhead, who coached Gathers at Loyola Marymount, was among the speakers at the 4 p.m. ceremony, held in connection with the Lions’ final regular-season home game of the season.
The statue was created by the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany, which has designed several statues at Staples Center, including those depicting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Shaquille O’Neal, and the Michael Jordan statue inside Chicago’s United Center.
Playing in Westhead’s fast-break offense, the 6-feet-7-inch Gathers became the second player to lead NCAA Division I in rebounding and scoring in the same season, averaging 32.7 points and 13.7 rebounds as a junior in the 1988-89 season.
Gathers is Loyola Marymount’s all-time leading scorer with 2,480 points in his three seasons after transferring from USC, and first in scoring average, averaging 28 points per game.
Gathers collapsed on the court at Gersten Pavilion, 13 seconds after dunking the ball in a semifinal game of the West Coast Conference tournament against Portland on March 4, 1990, and was pronounced dead shortly later at a hospital. He was 23.
An autopsy determined the cause of death to be cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disorder. Gathers had collapsed at a game against UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 9, 1989, at Gersten Pavilion after which he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat.
Gathers was a high school basketball star in Philadelphia. He and childhood friend Bo Kimble were both recruited to USC by then-coach Stan Morrison, but when Morrison was let go after their freshman year the two decided to transfer to Loyola Marymount rather than play for George Raveling at USC.
Without Gathers, the Lions won their first three games in the NCAA Tournament, including a 149-115 win over the defending NCAA champion Michigan to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
After defeating Alabama to get to the Elite Eight, Loyola was defeated by UNLV, 131-101. UNLV went on to win the national championship.
Following the Gathers’ statue unveiling Feb. 29, the 1989-90 team was honored at halftime of the game against San Francisco.