USC GOES A BIT PHILLY-SILLY : But Trojans Figure That Going East to Bring Young Men West Is Way to Go

Times Staff Writer

The oft-quoted advice of "Go West, young man" has not been heeded by the inner-city basketball stars of the East in recent years.

They have stayed home, for the most part, and Eastern college basketball has flourished, while the West has declined from its heyday of UCLA's national domination in the '60s and '70s.

Moreover, Eastern schools have been raiding the West for some of the best high school talent.

But hold on. The trend may be reversing, even if only slightly in regard to numbers. It's the Philadelphia connection, and the track is running right into Los Angeles.

Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers, both highly regarded players from Dobbins Tech in Philadelphia, are starting as freshmen for the Trojans.

Pooh Richardson, from Ben Franklin High in Philadelphia and a good friend of Kimble and Gathers, is UCLA's productive freshman point guard.

But the talent flow from Philly may not stop there. Derrick Gathers, Hank's brother, and Darrell Gates, who were starters on the city championship team at Dobbins Tech last year, are now playing for Taft Junior College.

That doesn't necessarily mean they'll wind up at USC if they become academically eligible for admission in two years, but they're already in the West, so a geographical hurdle has been cleared.

Significantly, USC is still working the Philadelphia area. David Spencer, Stan Morrison's longtime assistant at USC, has just returned from a scouting assignment in Philadelphia.

It's a long-range recruiting mission. Spencer is staying in contact with three juniors--guard Doug Overton of Dobbins Tech, 6-6 forward Brian Shorter of Simon Gratz High School and 6-10 Jay Buckley of Conestoga High.

"It would be something if we could eventually wind up with all five starters from the Dobbins Tech championship team," said Spencer, referring to Kimble, Hank and Derrick Gathers, Gates and Overton.

Unlikely, perhaps, but the Trojans have a start with two-fifths of that team in Kimble and Gathers.

So what influenced Kimble and Gathers to leave their eastern basketball sanctuary?

"I usually sum it up in two words, sun and fun," Gathers said. "When I came out here on a recruiting visit it was a brand new thing. The people around the USC campus were so friendly and willing to help you. I really thought it was sincere and it stuck in my mind.

"I came out here alone and when I got back to Philly, I told Bo that I'd love to have him spend the next four years with me at USC playing ball. A couple of months later, Bo visited here. Then, he couldn't shut up about the place."

Both Kimble and Gathers were heavily recruited by most major schools. Kimble, a 6-4 forward who is now a guard, averaged 24.6 points and 10.5 rebounds his senior season. Gathers, a 6-7 forward-center, also had impressive numbers, 20.5 points and 13.5 rebounds.

"I eliminated a lot of schools early, and it came down to Temple and USC," Kimble said. "I was basically going to stay home, but everything that I liked about Temple, it seemed that USC was that much better."

Spencer, of course, was an influencing factor. He grew up in Wilmington, Del., near Philadelphia, so he knows the territory.

"We got involved with them (Kimble and Gathers) early," Spencer said, adding that Philadelphia high school coaches have told him that some Eastern schools take the local youngsters for granted and don't get into the recruiting war until the some of the star players are seniors.

"Somebody may outrecruit us, but they're not going to outwork us," said Spencer, who regards Shorter as an eventual replacement for Derrick Dowell, USC's versatile 6-6 junior forward.

Buckley is the son of Jay Buckley, who played for Duke in an NCAA title game against UCLA in 1964. Mike McGee, USC's athletic director, is a former Duke All-American football player. So he'll be interested in Spencer's recruiting progress.

USC, which will play Washington State tonight at the Sports Arena, isn't apparently destined to make much of an impact this season with a 9-9 overall record, 3-5 in the Pacific 10.

But Morrison and his staff are laying the groundwork for the future, having already recruited Gathers and Kimble along with Tom Lewis and Rich Grande, who were Southern California prep stars before coming to USC.

Gathers and Kimble are apparently happy in their new environment. They're also a little mystified.

"What amazes Bo and I, probably Pooh, too, is that the kids don't play on the outside courts here," Gathers said.

"We practically grew up on the outside courts in Philly. And we played outside in the winter. There were times when we had to shovel some snow off a square in the playground just to shoot some layups or short jump shots.

"We'd be out on the Philly courts till 3 or 4 in the morning. The lights would go off at a certain time, but we learned how to keep them on. We fooled with the switches. Come to think of it we could have been killed."

Gathers said that his North Philadelphia neighborhood was gang-ridden when he was a youngster.

"It was a pretty rough place," he said. "But a good friend of mine, Father Dave Hagan, had a lot to do with stopping the gang violence. He set up a crime prevention program in the neighborhood to stop it. So it's not so bad anymore. A mother can take her little kid out for a walk without worrying about 15 blasts from a gun.

"Bo and I were talking recently about the neighborhoods that we came from. Out here they talk so much about Watts. So we went through Watts, and it was nothing. It would be the suburbs where we came from."

Gathers and Kimble have maintained contact with Richardson, especially Gathers.

"I'll visit Pooh on weekends in Westwood if we're not on the road at the same time," Gathers said.

Richardson is one up on his old Philadelphia friends, since he led UCLA to a 66-56 victory over USC last week at Pauley Pavilion.

But Dobbins Tech won the Philadelphia city championship last year. Pooh's team was eliminated before the title game.

"We were hoping that Pooh's team would make it to the championship game because in my junior year we played Ben Franklin for the championship and lost.

"But we played Pooh's team during the regular season of our senior year and won by one point in overtime," Gathers said. "I followed up Bo's shot with two seconds left in the overtime. The ball went in as I was falling to the floor.

"There was a big commotion, and it took about 15 to 20 minutes for everyone to clear the court."

Gathers and Kimble are new to the UCLA-USC rivalry, but they have put it in the proper perspective. They say it's just like playing Ben Franklin all over again.

Neither Gathers nor Kimble is used to losing. Dobbins Tech lost only 5 games while winning 52 in their junior and senior seasons.

Their winning time will come later, they said, when the Trojans become more experienced.

And, if some more Philadelphia kids come aboard, so much the better.

"You ought to see Darrell Gates," said Gathers, referring to the Taft JC guard who is known as Heat. "He is just as good as Pooh, or even better.

Kimble said: "If he had the grades to come here, he might have been a starter."

For USC, the Philadelphia story may just be unfolding.

Trojan Notes Tonight's USC-Washington State game will begin at 8. . . . Several USC players have missed practice this week because they had the flu. Derrick Dowell didn't practice until Wednesday. . . . Hank Gathers, who shares the starting center position with Rod Keller, is averaging 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds. He is shooting 58.7% from the field. Bo Kimble is averaging 11.9 points and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 48% from the field and 75% from the free throw line. . . . The Cougars are led by All-Pac-10 guard Keith Morrison, who is averaging 15.9 points and 4.9 rebounds, and 6-9 center Otis Jennings, 10.2 and 5.2. Guard Brian Winkler came off the bench and scored 16 points in WSU's 65-58 win over USC Jan. 9 at Pullman, Wash.

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