Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers, released from their basketball scholarships at USC two weeks ago after playing for the Trojans as freshmen, found shelter Friday with another transplanted Philadelphian, Loyola Marymount Coach Paul Westhead.
Kimble, a 6-4 guard, and Gathers, a 6-7 forward, announced that they will transfer to Loyola for the fall semester. According to NCAA rules, they have three years of eligibility remaining but are ineligible to play next season unless they win an appeal to the NCAA for immediate reinstatement. They said they have not decided whether to appeal.
“We accepted them as transfer students,” Westhead said. “We did not do that in anticipation they will be playing next season. Until something changes, we see them as students who transferred from another school and will sit out next year, but can practice with the team.”
Kimble and Gathers are two of the three USC freshmen whose scholarships were not renewed by the university for the 1986-87 academic year after they failed to meet an April 25 deadline set by the Trojans’ new coach, George Raveling, to declare whether they intended to remain with the team.
The other freshman whose scholarship was not renewed was Tom Lewis, who has not selected another school. He was scheduled to visit the University of Kentucky this weekend.
Westhead said Kimble and Gathers called him last Friday and expressed an interest in transferring. He said he met with them Wednesday and Thursday, when final arrangements were made.
“It all happened extremely quick,” Westhead said. “It’s our good fortune that both were interested in staying in the Los Angeles area and were attracted to our program.”
Kimble said he and Gathers initially favored transferring to Pepperdine but changed their minds after meeting Westhead.
Westhead was recommended to the players by Father Dave Hagan, a Philadelphia priest who has been close to Kimble and Gathers for several years. It was Hagan who persuaded the players that they should remain on the West Coast instead of transferring to a school closer to Philadelphia.
When Westhead coached at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, he allowed boys from Hagan’s inner-city parish to attend his basketball camps free. Hagan remembered that when Westhead contacted the priest about Kimble and Gathers while in Philadelphia last week for a wedding.
Pepperdine Coach Jim Harrick said that when he left for a meeting of West Coast Athletic Conference coaches in San Diego Thursday, he was under the impression that Kimble and Gathers intended to enroll at Pepperdine.
“I told them if they wanted to come, they were welcome to come, but I didn’t want to get into a recruiting battle,” he said.
He said Gathers called Thursday night and told him the two players had not made a decision.
“It was kind of hard to decide between Pepperdine and Loyola,” Kimble said. “But when we talked to Father Dave, he was very high on Loyola and Coach Westhead. That made the difference.”
Even though Raveling initially gave the players until April 25 to decide whether they wanted to remain at USC, he told Kimble and Gathers Monday that they could stay if they so desired.
“Up until Wednesday, it was 50-50,” Kimble said Friday. “But we found that feeling we had been looking for in one meeting with Coach Westhead that we hadn’t been able to find in two or three meetings with Coach Raveling.”
Times staff writers Randy Harvey and Ray Ripton contributed to this story.