It’s 12:52 pm
March Madness signals the huge college basketball tournament that happens every year here in the United States. Today’s tournement features 68 men’s teams and 64 women’s team teams playing in a single elimination style format.
It enormous popularity actually rivals the Super Bowl in terms of betting in Las Vegas and the sudden emergence of star players and Cinderella moments capture’s even the most causal fan’s fancy.
Hoop fans love the excitement of teams ripping down the court and scoring at will and for a brief magical period,a small Catholic school in Southern California called Loyola Marymount,coached by Paul Westhead and led by two greyhounds named Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers,ruled the college baseketball world in a way that had never been seen before…..on 4 March 1990 that changed forever.
The recounting of Hank Gather’s life story begins in Philadelphia where Hank and his younger brother Derrick used to played ball on the playgrounds. Thier mother Lucille (Nell Carter) did her best in bringing up her sons,getting them away from the worst neighborhoods even if it meant moving a few blocks away.
Hank and his brother join a Catholic youth team run by Father Dave (George Kennedy) who teaches teamwork over individual talent and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. After losing a local championship because of selfish play,Father Dave lets the boys have it and then dismisses them. Lucille comes downs and for a second it looks like the two are going to clash but it turns out that Lucille agrees with Father Dave. Father Dave begins mentoring Hank and centering him on doing well in school.
Hank and Derrick are in a gym watching a 2 on 2 game….when Derrick points out Bo Kimble is one of the players,Hank challenges him and his partner to a game. At first the game is light hearted as Hank and Derrick are out for fun but for Bo,every game is serious and he and his partner blow out the Gather brothers,21-4.
In high school both Hank and Bo are reunited on the varsity as teammates. Both boys want the same dreams in regards to going to college and then pro but they clash hard,they do not develop a instant friendship. They struggle on the court to play together. After an embarassing incident on the court during a game,Hank approaches Bo with a deal: let’s just get get along for two months and then we won’t have to ever see each other again. Bo nods in agreement and the team starts to do well.
But Hank’s dreams take a real shot as he gets a girl pregnant which causes stress between Father Dave and Lucille as they both feel Hank has his life at real risk. Hank buckles down at school,he knows he has made a terrible mistake in judgement.
Both Hank and Bo are heavily recruited,Hank is going to USC while Bo looks to be heading to Kentucky. The two young men has started to become friends and while Hank says he is happy Bo is going to Kentucky,Kimble surprises him by saying “Kentucky? Oh no,you’re not seeing the last of me just yet” and opens his jacket to see a USC sweater underneath.
The two friends now travel to USC and play under Coach Stan Morrison,while both chaff under the system,they both like Morrison and are upset when he is pushed aside after a losing season at USC.
Both Hank and Bo know that staying at USC will not help them to the next level so they talk to Father Dave and also another friend who recommend Loyola Marymount,a small school who has hired former LA Lakers coach Paul Westhead as head coach,he has installed a run and gun system that will highlight excellent shooters. Despite not really knowing LMU,the two players enroll and excell,elevating the program to national status.
Things are looking good but when Bo tears a ACL,Hank helps him go through rehab,offering encouragement and support.
Bo pops in the gym and sees Hank practicing free throws,which Hank struggled with,it takes a moment for Bo to notice that Hank is shooting and making them shooting left handed despite Hank being right handed,he is looking to improve his game for the NBA.
It is while in a game and shooting a free throw that Hank passes out for the first time. He is found to have an abnormal heartbeat and is sidelined and has to take medication.
Hank finds the medication to be affecting his game and complains about it but is told to “give it time”. Feeling that his NBA future is slipping away again,Hank cuts back on the dosage….which leads to him to collasping on the court during West Coast Conference tournament against Portland and dying later at a local hospital.
The film ends with Bo giving a eulogy and a montage of Hank’s best moments.
I actually followed Hank Gathers and LMU during their run and gun days. Another small school called USIU also adapted Westhead’s system and when the two schools would meet,records fell as Loyola Marymount twice scored 180 pints in a single game…while USIU scored 140 and 150 themselves!!
As for this small largely forgotten TV film,it was a mixed bag. The first half plays like a complete black movie stereotype with Hank shuckin’ and jivin’ corny and bordering on offensive dialogue you see in a early 1970s blaxplotation film. While the cast did thier best with Victor Love and Duane Davis as Hank and Bo,it isn’t until the movie takes the boys to college does it settle into being a decent film. It feels more more real and we can see the hard work and dedication that Gathers and Kimble put into their games AND classroom.
The basketball action is pretty much grade Z as watching actors slam dunking through a elementary school basket only inspires laughs rather then admiration for their skills. Director Chuck Braverman,while capturing the complete desolation that is Philadelphia,which makes Detroit look rather good in comparsion,just doesn’t know how to capture Hank’s passion for the game.
Love and Kennedy are both very good here,Kennedy seems really into the role of wise mentor and Love plays Gathers has a young man with a zest for life cut down all too much soon. A special nod has to be given to character actress Molly McGuire who plays a cashier at the cafe where Hank and Bo eat at who offers sage advice everytime they see her.
The score is an above average one for a TV movie as Stanley Clarke delivers great music throughout the movie.
So while “Final Shot” isn’t the best movie ever made,it still be checked out at least once by any hardcore NCAA basketball fans because Hank Gathers deserves to be remembered in the same breath as all the great players. The cheetah and I gave this film a thumbs/paw up.
Run time is 92 minutes and has no special features.
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