Following Gathers's Dec. 9 episode, some observers had doubts about his future in the pros. "A red flag went up in front of all of us when he collapsed the first time," says Pete Newell, who coached Gathers at his big-man's camp during the summer of 1989 and who has been a scout for two NBA teams. "Whether it got back to him or not, I don't know. But we figured it would be like a Terry Cummings thing."
(Cummings, who was diagnosed as having an irregular heartbeat in 1983, during his first pro season, with the then San Diego Clippers, now plays for the San Antonio Spurs under medication.)
Gathers's friends insist that he did everything his doctors told him to do. Autopsy reports revealed that traces of Inderal were found in his system. It has not, however, been determined whether at the time of his death Gathers had taken the dosage prescribed for him. Derrick says that Hank took his medicine early in the morning on the day he died, though he didn't actually witness it. He also says that his brother had learned that by working up a good sweat before a game, he could lessen the side effects of the medicine.
"He started skipping rope before games," says Derrick. "He thought he had all the bugs worked out. He believed he could lick it."
So many people believed in Hank Gathers. Happily, not all those hopes died with him. Dawson and Gates are trying to carry on. Dawson has moved out of the old neighborhood where he, Gates, Gathers and Kimble grew up, and is working as a mail clerk at a branch office of the Mellon Bank in Philadelphia to support himself and his family. Gates is working in the stock room of Universal Records in Philadelphia and hopes for a tryout with a European pro team this spring.
Hagan's group is flourishing. Last summer, several of his young men cleaned up two neighborhood parks, one of which they have unofficially renamed for Gathers.
Overton, now a senior at La Salle, shaved Gathers's number 44 into his hair and dedicated this season to his memory. He is one of the nation's leading scorers and a probable first-round NBA draft pick.
Aaron, Gathers's son, draws stick people with red hearts on their chests, excels in math and penmanship in second grade and talks of becoming an artist.
Derrick is scheduled to graduate from Cal State-North-ridge in December with a business degree. He wants to play basketball in the Los Angeles summer pro league.
Kimble is struggling with the Clippers, averaging through Saturday only 8.0 points a game while shooting just 38.6% from the field. "Not a day goes by when someone doesn't remind me of Hank," he said over breakfast recently. "They will say that they saw us play or that they're pulling for me because of Hank. Other things, too, remind me of him. Things we did together, certain drills we run in practice. It's still hard. The last year has been hard."