UC Riverside's Gurganious puts career in perspective

On the 20th anniversary of the death of Hank Gathers, UC Riverside guard Larry Gurganious watched the old Loyola Marymount games being replayed on ESPN Classic and found himself glued to the television.

Gurganious said he hadn't known much about Gathers' story until Thursday, and it hit home with him. His 15-year-old brother, David, collapsed and went into cardiac arrest while sitting on the bench during a basketball game at El Cerrito (Calif.) High on Feb. 2.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, David stopped breathing, but David's coach and a parent performed CPR and he regained a pulse. David is now out of the hospital.

"To see [Gathers play] and then what happened to my brother, it hit me hard this morning," Gurganious said. "It let me know I really could have lost him."

Gurganious has not missed a game through all this. He was shaken by the late-night call from his sister that informed him of David's collapse and considered going home to Northern California, but said his parents talked him out of it.

"The game took my mind off of what was going on," Gurganious said. "We had to push for the tournament, and my brother had started responding. He's his old self pretty much now."

The brothers were reunited for an emotional Senior Night on Feb. 20, with Gurganious scoring 10 points in a BracketBuster win against Youngstown State.

Gurganious, a transfer from Gonzaga, is hoping he can extend his college career after tonight. UC Riverside (12-16) plays Long Beach State and wants to clinch the eighth and final berth into the Big West tournament.

His brother's episode had the Highlanders program rallying around him, and he's also received support from former coaches at Gonzaga and former Zags teammate Ronny Turiaf, who needed to undergo open-heart surgery in order to have an NBA career. Playing for the Golden State Warriors, Turiaf visited with David and also recently donated defibrillators, including one to El Cerrito High.

Gurganious is holding out hope for one final postseason that would cap off a career that hasn't been easy. He medically redshirted his entire sophomore season while recovering from a back injury, and eventually transferred after going to the NCAA tournament with Gonzaga in 2008.

The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder then sat out all of last year when the NCAA denied his hardship waiver and an appeal before becoming eligible at UC Riverside. This season, he's been second on the team in points and rebounds.

Tonight could be his final college game.

"We’re going to play like our backs are against the wall," Gurganious said.