Timed to coincide with the NCAA basketball tournament that is winnowing its way to next week's Final Four on CBS, this is the story of a Loyola Marymount University basketball star who collapsed because of a heart irregularity during a game two years ago this month and died shortly afterward. His death came one season after he led the nation in scoring and rebounding. (Members of Gathers's family had filed two separate lawsuits against LMU for wrongful death. One was recently settled.)
The film follows Gathers (Victor Love) from a poor childhood in Philadelphia through his travails as a teenage father to his college career and health problems. Nell Carter plays his mother; George Kennedy plays the Catholic priest who was his first coach and mentor, and Duane Davis plays Bo Kimble, Gathers's teammate and friend in high school and college, now a pro with the NBA's L.A. Clippers.
The script is awkward—at times downright hokey. (One week the cashier at the college cafeteria is telling Gathers she wasn't aware the school had a basketball team; his next time through the line she's a jargon-tossing expert, telling him, "They're overplaying you in the low post. If you go to your left, you'll be unstoppable." Okay, coach, but how much is this bag of Cheez Doodles?)
Though Love bears a much greater resemblance to Darryl Strawberry than to Gathers, his energetic portrayal is quite winning. And for once an inner-city setting doesn't look as if it were shot on a Hollywood sound-stage.