By Chuckie Maggio
It’s been a whirlwind lately for Jordan Gathers.
The St. Bonaventure guard has experienced a game-winner and hip surgery, the Sportscenter Top 10 and physical therapy, all in the past four months.
The ride technically started in the first game of the season against South Dakota. The then-junior guard attacked the basket, went up and heard an unusual sound when he came down.
“I was uncomfortable, but I guess the adrenaline took my mind off things. As I cooled down, the pain was in my groin, so I figured I pulled that,” Gathers said.
He was able to tough it out and play through the pain all season, only sitting out two games to give the pain time to subside and allow him to play. However, the pain kept coming back. His lateral movement and explosion were limited, and it was clear that an MRI was needed after the season to figure out what was wrong.
When Gathers got the MRI at season’s end, the diagnosis was a tear in his right hip labrum and a hip impingement that required arthroscopic surgery. The successful surgery was performed in Gathers’ native California by UCLA physician Dr. Sharon Hame, who Gathers said did a “fantastic job.”
“Recovery has gone very well,” he said. “Physical therapy is a grind and I’m enjoying the process. Time and patience will get me back to playing the sport I love at 100 percent.”
“Doctors say the recovery time is 4-6 months but we’ll see how it goes,” he continued. “I’ll be back on the court when my injury is completely healed and I’m back to full strength. That’s my main priority and I’m working very hard to get there now.”
While looking forward is the main priority, Gathers couldn’t help but reminisce on a wild 2013-14 Bonnies season. It was a roller coaster ride, with the unforgettable moment being his game-winning shot to beat top-seeded Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals in Brooklyn. The play was No. 1 on Sportscenter’s Top 10 and tweeted about nationally.
“The God-moment against the top dog was an unbelievable and unforgettable experience. Some say it’s the best game-winner in Bonaventure history,” Gathers said. “For that play to be No. 1 on Sportscenter was a major accomplishment and dream come true.”
“Every kid dreams of hitting game-winners but it all starts by practicing them and being in the gym. I thank Charlon Kloof for the assist and I was very glad to be able to share that moment with my family, squad and Bona Nation, the best fans in the country.”
It was a rewarding moment for a player who found himself in many roles throughout the season for Mark Schmidt’s team. He averaged 26 minutes a game, sometimes starting the game and sometimes coming off the bench as the sixth man.
“It was very interesting. I was able to adapt and do what was best for my team,” Gathers said. “The coaches have their own reasons and ways of doing things, so I just go out and play the game. You can only control what you can control. Therefore, if I’m starting, I start. If I’m on the bench, I encourage and cheer for my teammates.”
“All I really care about is winning,” he continued. “If Coach Schmidt needs me playing multiple roles because he feels that’s the best way to win, I’m all for it. I am a versatile player and am able to contribute in many ways. If the coaches need me at center, I’ll do that even though I could never outshine Youssou (Ndoye) at that position. I’m very confident in my ability to play this game and that comes from preparation and work ethic. Consistency is the word I try to live by.”
Gathers realizes that he and the other seniors have a lot of responsibility when it comes to the team’s success next season.
“Our season was a roller-coaster and the seniors led the way in last year’s campaign,” he said. “Now it’s up to Youssou (Ndoye), Andell (Cumberbatch), Chris (Dees) and myself to lead the troops in our last go-around.”
Gathers and Youssou Ndoye share a special bond, as teammates and great friends since they moved into Robinson Hall in June 2011 for Summer Session II.
“Youssou is my right hand man,” Gathers said. “When you see him, you see me, and vice versa. He’s had a tremendous impact on my life both on and off the court.”
“We are your typical brothers and we’ve been through a lot together. I can call him and rely on him no matter what. We’ve pushed each other to become the best we can possibly be and we’re looking to show that to the newcomers. We’re going to lead this team next season with our confidence and experience.”
Gathers and Ndoye have different emotions on the court. Ndoye is very expressive and wears his emotions on his sleeve, while Gathers is calmer, keeping an even keel.
“Calm, cool and collected is what I tell myself before every game. Composure is key on the court and at times I let tiny blows get to me; I’m working on that,” Gathers said.
“Experiences mold you into the person you are going to become in life. I’ve dealt with much adversity throughout my whole life and overcame it all. I’m not finished yet so more adversity is on its way, but I’m preparing myself to overcome it again and reach my goals and the team’s goal.”
This go-around will be a bit different without assistant coach Jeff Massey, who accepted the same position at Toledo last month. Massey was very close to all of the players, and Gathers was no different. He called Massey his “big brother” when reflecting on what the coach meant to him.
“I respect the decision that he made for himself and his family,” Gathers said. “My game improved because of him pushing me to be the best I can be. We were in the gym every morning working on my shooting, ball-handling, free throws, and watching tape. He took the blame for my mistakes when I was on the court. Most people don’t know how personal he took developing players both athletically and academically. I have the utmost respect for him and he’ll truly be missed; Toledo stole a great one.”
“Sometimes you have to make tough decisions in life and you can’t get caught up in the negativity,” he continued. “(Massey) did a great job at SBU and although he has moved on he’ll always be family.”
When asked if an Atlantic 10 title is the goal for next season, Gathers was emphatic.
“Of course, without a doubt. That’s the goal every season,” he said. “We did it my freshman year with the leadership of my ‘big brothers’ Andrew Nicholson and Daquan Cook. We’ve fallen short of the goal the last two years, and I don’t want to make it a third time. They do say third time’s a charm.”
Gathers wears 5 on the court, but his Twitter handle is @44LivesOn as homage to his uncle, the late, great Hank Gathers.
Hank Gathers was a star forward at Loyola Marymount University, becoming the second player in history to lead the nation in scoring and rebounding in the 1988-89 season. Going into his senior season, he was projected as a lottery pick, but he would never be able to hear his name called. On March 4, 1990, his life tragically ended when he died on the court in the first half of the West Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinals against Portland. He scored on a slam dunk, then collapsed as he ran back on defense. He attempted to get up, but then stopped breathing. He was declared dead on arrival at a local hospital, and an autopsy later revealed that he had suffered from a heart-muscle disorder called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Though Jordan was never able to meet his uncle, Hank has had a profound impact on him because of what he did in his basketball career and his short life off the court.
“Some people are great players but terrible individuals. My uncle touched many lives in a positive way,” Gathers said. “All who knew and met him said he was a great person. I want to take that and be remembered in that manner. He left a legacy for our last name and it’s a blessing; I’m proud to carry the name.”
“Now it’s time to add my contribution to the legacy and lay down my foundation,” he said. “Yes, I’m the nephew of the late great Hank Gathers but I want to be remembered as Jordan Gathers. I want to create my own legacy that does not erase my uncle’s, just complements it.”
“When it’s all said and done, I want to live the best life I can.”