It was one year ago this coming Tuesday that Gerald Madkins steered a moped through the UCLA campus, heading toward Westwood Village to see a movie.
He never made it.
Instead, he spent the night--and the next several weeks--in the UCLA Medical Center. Madkins and his moped collided head-on with a car, leaving the UCLA basketball player with multiple fractures of his pelvis.
While in the hospital, Madkins wondered if he would walk again, never mind dunking in Pauley Pavilion. Would he be able to make it up and down the stairs?
"If you saw his X-rays, you'd look at them and say, 'Oh . . .,' " said Gerald Finerman, the Bruins' team physician. "Half of his pelvis was rotated probably about 90%.
"This was a big-time injury."
But Madkins, whose pelvis was held together for several months by a pair of metal plates, seems to have recovered.
He has been playing basketball for several months, focusing his attention on next season.
Will he be the same player he was before the injury?
"I think there's a good chance," Finerman said. "It's hard to be cavalier and say he'll be as good as he was after sitting out a year. But his fracture is well-healed. It's in excellent position.
"He hasn't had much in the way of (pain). We're very hopeful that he'll be able to return to his full capabilities."
Coach Jim Harrick is hopeful, too, but he wonders about Madkins' mental adjustment.
"Your back stops hurting after a year," Harrick said. "Are you going to swing the golf club 100%? Are you going to cut loose?"
Not to worry, Madkins said. He'll be ready to go when training camp opens on Oct. 15.
Harrick rides a moped.
"I take it to the grocery store and places like that," he said.
So, when he heard that Madkins had been involved in an accident, his first thought was that it probably wasn't serious. "I thought he might be a little skinned up," Harrick said.
He soon discovered the worst: Madkins and his passenger, Sheri Carpenter, were headed southbound on Circle Drive West at about 25 m.p.h., according to the story Madkins told police, when the moped ran head-on into an oncoming car, which was traveling at about 10 m.p.h.
According to the police report, the driver of the car had just moved into the area the day before, "was not familiar with (the street)" and "may have been partially or totally in the opposing traffic lane."
Physical evidence, the report said, suggested that the moped, which Madkins borrowed from teammate Kevin Walker, fell and slid prior to impact, indicating that Madkins attempted to maneuver out of harm's way.
Madkins doesn't remember much about the accident, but he told police at the scene that he turned his head briefly to say something to Carpenter, then turned around to see headlights approaching.
Carpenter, whose right knee was shattered, doesn't remember anything about it.
"I remember Gerald calling to say, 'I'll be there in half an hour,' " said Carpenter, a high school friend of Madkins' who was visiting from Merced. "The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital."
Madkins remembers a tremendous pain across his stomach.
A week later, during a four-hour procedure, Dr. Eric Johnson inserted the metal plates to hold the fracture in place. Abdominal muscles, which had been pulled away from the bone, were sewn back. One of the plates, which is about eight inches long, still runs along the inside of Madkins' pelvis. The other was removed last May.
Harrick was dumbstruck by the extent of the injuries.
"I got sick to my stomach," he said. "I could have cried."
Madkins, who played fewer than 18 minutes a game as UCLA's third guard in the 1987-88 season but nevertheless was named to the Pacific 10 Conference all-freshman team, was projected as a three-year starter.
Harrick considered him the Bruins' best athlete and UCLA trainer Tony Spino, who formerly worked for the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Assn., compared Madkins' court sense to that of former Bucks Sidney Moncrief and Junior Bridgeman.
"He sees the floor like nobody we have," Spino said.
With Madkins, Harrick said, UCLA probably would have won about five more games last season. As it was, the Bruins were 21-10 and reached the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament while basically using only two guards, Pooh Richardson and freshman Darrick Martin, in the last half of the season.
Madkins plays almost every day at Pauley Pavilion--without pain, he said--and two nights a week in a summer league at Cal State Los Angeles. Next month, he will tour Morocco with a team representing Amateur Sports Development, a non-profit group that sponsors cultural tours for amateur athletes.
Madkins practiced with the Bruins at the end of last season and, while limited physically, said he developed a greater appreciation for basic fundamentals, which he hopes will improve his play.
He admits to being out of shape, but when asked if he is limited in any way by the injury, he said: "There's nothing I can't do. I'm going all out. I'm falling on the floor. I don't think I'd go out there if I had any hesitation."
Madkins said he plans to be in the starting lineup when UCLA opens the season Nov. 25 against Santa Clara. The Bruins' signing of Mitchell Butler, a 6-5 high school All-American from Oakwood School in North Hollywood, hasn't changed his mind.
"If he beats me out," Madkins said of Butler, a three-time Southern Section player of the year, "it's my fault and I'm going to accept it and sit down. But I expect to have the job.
"If Gerald Madkins does what he has to do, he'll be in the starting lineup. That's the bottom line."
Harrick said Madkins' condition would be a major factor in determining UCLA's fate next season. "I have a sixth sense that his ability to come back is going to be the key to whether we're good or very good," Harrick said.
The 6-3, 185-pound Madkins averaged under six points a game as a freshman, but made almost 60% of his shots, including 45% from three-point range, and 83% of his free throws.
Harrick described him as a "marvelous athlete," a valued leader and UCLA's best defender.
"He's got some skills you can't coach into a guy," Harrick said. "You know, instincts that you can't coach into an athlete--about passing and penetrating, and just playing . You can't coach some things. Players are just born with them."
Madkins, of course, almost lost those abilities when he skidded across the pavement. Since the accident, he said, he has ridden on a moped only once. A friend gave him a ride up a hill.
"I was only on there for about 30 seconds, but my girlfriend almost bit my head off," he said. "She gave me the weirdest look--like I was the silliest man she'd ever met."