oh, henry…..here’s one for you.

By Walik Edwards, BASN columnist
Updated: March 15, 2005

Hank Gathers

LOS ANGELES,CA. (BASN) -- “but the man in the door just turned and said, “no i’m not dead, but i’ll leave you to the Lord instead” “eulogy for a living man”, eddy grant.

with the ncaa tournament starting, we were reminded of a young man named hank gathers who played for the early nineties high-octane college hoops team of loyola marymount university. hank gathers was one of the leading scorers in college basketball that year, and was on his way with his team to the ncaa tourney the following week when he suddenly collapsed, after making one of many alley-oops he’d made throughout the season, and died soon afterwards. it was learned that hank had had a heart condition that complicated his playing basketball at such a frenetic pace as the loyola game plan called for. however, he played a lot longer than he probably should have. hank gathers was a large specimen of a man and any clue of him succumbing to this kind of fate was well hidden under the guise of what he was able to do on the court. one of the things hank left behind was his struggles, and attempts to eradicate a deficiency, in his free throw shooting. one of his “cures” was to attempt shooting free throws with his left hand. loyola’s first round game against new mexico state was in long beach, and with a national tv audience and backyard backing, his teammate and best friend, bo kimble, decided to give his passed teammate the honor of a lifetime. it was no easy feat, for the tribute that kimble had in mind was to shoot every first free throw he had a chance to shoot…..left-handed. kimble was right-handed, and had only worked on the lefty throws for less than a week. when he finally got his chance, kimble cupped the ball in his left hand, and the crowd fell to a death-like silence because they knew what this free-throw attempt meant. it wasn’t a basketball moment. it was just a time for bo kimble to tell hank gathers how much he missed him, and how much he was still in his heart. hit or miss, that sentiment was already evident, but you know a tribute ain’t a tribute unless it hits its mark…..and it did. kimble made the free throw, and there are reports that through the wild cheering and jubilance, there were many tears shed after the toss was made, and the moment lives in tourney lore forever. bo kimble has walked many miles in his basketball shoes. he’s played in the nba and cba, in portugal, taiwan, france, and greece, before settling down to do some tv analyst work, along with juggling a commercial real-estate business, and working with a charitable organization he created. he has gone through hell and back with the gathers family as well, being estranged for a while in between. but it’s not until now that bo kimble realizes the fullness of his left-handed free throws. on february 19th, loyola retired his number “30″, and hank gathers’ “44″, and in accepting the honor alone, he’s beginning to understand what hank gathers’ presence meant to him. show me the jordan jumper against georgetown, or the keith smart jumper against syracuse. maybe magic and bird for nth time. lorenzo charles dropping in the dunk for n.c state and coach jimmy v, and even my beloved villanova wildcats slaying the mighty hoya machine in ’85….. …..but if there’s a greater single moment than bo kimble’s single free throw, then i don’t understand the true heart of collegiate sports, and i probably don’t understand the meaning of love, either. and i think i get something else now…..he’s not here in view, but people see bo, they see hank…..and when people see bo, they ask about hank. not only is hank gathers a memory, but he’s somebody who walks with bo kimble every day of his life….. …..and know what else i think? …..i think bo and hank shot that free throw together. keep on TEACHIN’, keep on LEARNIN’.