RTC Remembers Loyola Marymount 1989-90: Interview With Jeff Fryer

Posted by jstevrtc on March 3rd, 2010

March 4, 1990.

Quarterfinals, West Coast Conference Tournament.

Loyola Marymount vs Portland.  13:34 left, first half.

Hank Gathers had just scored on a dunk to put his Lions ahead, 25-13.  Unfortunately, we all know what happened soon after.

Twenty years to the day have passed since that moment, one of the most tragic in the history of college basketball.  Gathers, of course, was much more than the leader of the most exciting college team ever to take the floor, and what he meant to people as a friend and family member cannot be explained or summarized in a hundred articles on this or any other website, or by the various 20-year remembrances of both Gathers and that 1990 Loyola Marymount team that you’re likely to see in the next few weeks.   After that moment, the entire WCC Tournament was stopped.  As regular season champions, Loyola Marymount was awarded the WCC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  They were cast as a #11 seed in the West region, and given the “opportunity” to decline the bid for obvious reasons.  This was a good basketball team; they had posted a 13-1 WCC record and were 26-6 overall.  But if they chose to sit this one out — who could blame them?

The remaining Lions decided to play on, knowing that it was the most fitting way to honor their departed friend.  What came after that was probably the most remarkable three-game run in NCAA Tournament history, and not just because LMU was an underdog in each game.  Knowing that not playing was not an option, these guys had to find a way to go out and win games and enjoy basketball without feeling like they were minimizing the life of their fallen teammate.  Working this out in your head would be difficult at any age, let alone when you’re a college kid between 18-22.  Still, they found a way to get through the first game and defeat New Mexico State, 111-92.  They found a way to annihilate defending champion Michigan 149-115 — that is not a typo — hitting 21 three-pointers and forcing UM into 27 turnovers.  They found a way to endure and win the Sweet 16 game against Alabama, 62-60,  a game in which Alabama would actually pull the ball out even when the Tide had 3-on-1 and 4-on-2 fastbreaks so as not to get caught up in the LMU style.  It took the eventual champion in UNLV — one of the best college basketball teams of all time — to defeat them in the Elite Eight.

Fryer (#21) Celebrating

The entire nation had become fascinated with LMU even before Gathers’ death.  Everyone remembers the hyperdrive, speed of light, is-this-really-happening pace that coach Paul Westhead employed (LMU averaged 122.4 PPG that year).  Everyone remembers Bo Kimble’s tribute of shooting his first free throw of each game left-handed, and that he was 3-3  in the NCAA Tournament with the left hand.  The greatest part of the LMU run, though, was the 41-point performance by Jeff Fryer in the second round game against Michigan.  A perfect fit for Westhead’s offense, Fryer was a skilled shooter with classic form and unbelievable range who had the green light to go up with it pretty much as soon as he crossed half-court.  Against Michigan, he entered a rarified state of shooting consciousness, hitting 15-20 on the night — and an unbelievable 11-15 from behind the three point arc.  And if you ever get to see a replay of this game, you’ll notice — a lot of them weren’t exactly with his toes near the line.  It was phenomenal.  The 11 threes still stand as a record number for an NCAA Tournament game, and it was one of the great individual performances in the history of the event.  Mr. Fryer still lives in California and was kind enough to answer some of our questions about those days.

The Righty Kimble Going Lefty

RTC: To this day, when people think of Loyola Marymount, they think of the fast-paced style, the great tournament run in 1990, and Hank Gathers’ untimely death in the West Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinals that year.  The WCC Tournament begins on Friday.  It’s been 20 years.  What has been the impact of Gathers’ death on your life?

JF: The impact of Hank’s life on my life would be the privilege of playing hoops with one of the best college ball players ever.  I’m thankful that he decided to play his college years at LMU and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  I try not to dwell on his death, just try to remember his life, and that everybody has a time to pass on, and that was his time.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 02.27.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 27th, 2010

Now it’s getting serious.  College basketball teams across the country now fall into one of four camps: bored, because they know their NCAA bid is secure; resigned, because they’ve known for a long time that they’re out; relieved, because they think they’ve played their way in; and downright antsy, because they’ve still got work to do.  That last group are the most interesting ones at this time of year, and there are plenty of them out there.  We’ll be keeping an eye on all of those games and, of course, commenting on any game we can find on the tube in today’s three-man weave version of BGTD.  We hope to hear from you while we’re at it.  Here are the games on which we’ll definitely be keeping tabs, though we’ll probably find more throughout the day:

  • 12 PM – Notre Dame @ #13 Georgetown on CBS (regional) – RTC Live
  • 12 PM – #2 Kentucky @ #17 Tennessee on CBS (regional)
  • 12 PM – Michigan @ #9 Ohio State on ESPN
  • 12 PM – Northeastern @ George Mason on ESPN2
  • 2 PM – North Carolina @ Wake Forest on CBS
  • 2 PM – #21 Texas @ #23 Texas A&M on ESPN
  • 2 PM – Mississippi @ Arkansas on ESPN2
  • 4 PM – #1 Kansas @ Oklahoma State on CBS
  • 4 PM – Florida @ Georgia on SEC Network
  • 6 PM – Mississippi State @ South Carolina on ESPN
  • 8 PM – Illinois State @ #22 Northern Iowa on ESPN2
  • 8 PM – Missouri @ #6 Kansas State on ESPN-U
  • 8 PM – Southern Miss @ Memphis on CBS College Sports
  • 9 PM – #8 Villanova @ #4 Syracuse on ESPN

We will start with our coverage at 11 AM. Feel free to drop by throughout the day and ask questions/comment on anything that is happening in the world of college basketball.

11:05: Well it certainly is very orange in Syracuse. And Bob Knight with the first shot of the day mocking fans who would pay $750 to watch this game. Nice. Evan Turner just signed a “Evan Turner” home-made trophy being held by some kid wearing a home-made “Villain” t-shirt.

11:06: Knight just admitted he is rooting for Steve Alford and New Mexico tonight. Not a surprise, but still amusing. I’m sure the BYU players will have something to say to the media after the game.

11:10: We would love to interview the fan who sits in that seat or the row of seats that Erin Andrews just featured. The almost looks like Final Four type seating or what we saw earlier this year for the game at the new Cowboys stadium.

11:17: Hubert Davis calling out the Mountain West and BYU. Can we get Shawn Bradley on the phone to mock UNC? Jay Bilas comes to BYU’s defense by comparing them to and crushing Virginia Tech. He’s not going to be a popular guy the next time he visits Blacksburg. Digger makes the best point of the entire discussion by saying that the reason we are talking up the mid-majors is because the PAC-10 is awful this year.

11:20: “This is the weakest at-large field ever. The weakest at-large field ever.” – Jay Bilas. He should be fun on Selection Sunday.

11:21: Does Digger have a yellow highlighter today? Is this the first time he has went with the traditional yellow for his highlighter?

11:35: Nice feature about Hank Gathers. I still remember hearing about it the day it happened on SportsCenter the night it happened. Still jarring to see the video. Nice shout-out to RTC fan Jeff Fryer. It’s too bad they ran into the buzzsaw that was the 1990 UNLV team. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that “30 for 30″ documentary.

11:45: I love seeing the replay of the Scottie Reynolds shot. Not because I root for Villanova, but because it is the craziest basketball moment I have ever seen in person. Just the ecstasy of the Villanova fans that followed their utter despair after they had almost blown the game moments before.

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