PHILADELPHIA -- A 17-year-old basketball player trying to make his high school team collapsed on the court and died yesterday in a manner almost identical to the shocking death of his famous first cousin, Hank Gathers.
Joseph Marable, a senior at William Penn High School, was pronounced dead at 4:50 p.m. after being taken by ambulance to Temple University Hospital from the high school gym.
The hospital listed Marable's collapse as "sudden death." The medical examiner's office will determine the precise cause, a hospital spokesman said.
Marable's father, Joe Rowell, said last night his son had not appeared unhealthy and the death had come as a complete shock.
"I'm just numb," Rowell said, standing outside the family's rowhouse in North Philadelphia.
Marable collapsed after about five minutes of full-court practice, William Penn coach Arnold Singletary said. Marable went to the bench, leaned back and then slumped forward to the floor in front of teammates, Singletary said.
Marable's mother, Gail Marable, is a younger sister of Gathers' mother, Lucille Gathers.
Hank Gathers, a star at Murrell Dobbins Tech in Philadelphia in the mid-1980s, led the nation in scoring and rebounding in 1988-89 as a college junior at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. He was 23 when he collapsed during a tournament in March 1990 and died later at a hospital.
Gathers had fainted before, in an earlier game that season. He was diagnosed as suffering from cardiomyopathy, a heart abnormality that can be caused by disease or heredity. Gathers was being treated for an irregular heartbeat when he collapsed.
Rowell said his son had never fainted. "There was nothing wrong with my son," he said. "He was healthy. He didn't partake of alcohol or anything like that."
Rowell said that basketball "was the whole world" to his son. "He was a good kid, never caused us any trouble. He just went to school, played ball, came home, watched videos."
Rowell learned of his son's collapse when he arrived at work. He is a cook at a Mexican restaurant in Old City.
About 30 people -- family and friends -- showed up at the hospital's emergency room after word spread of the collapse, Rowell said. Hank Gathers' mother was among them.
"That was like reopening old wounds," Rowell said.
Marable had filed a standard medical permission card this fall to play basketball at William Penn, said Linda Magee, the school district's manager of athletics.
The card must be signed by a doctor and a parent, she said. Magee also said that relatives at the hospital told her that Marable had "childhood asthma that cleared as he grew up."
Marable collapsed shortly after 3:30, witnesses said. The coach said other players saw him falling.
"The kids called to me and my assistant coach, and we just got everybody out of the way and called 911," Singletary said.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was not administered, girls basketball coach Alison Eachus said, because it is not considered proper treatment for someone who still is breathing and has a pulse.
According to Fire Department officials, the emergency call came in at 3:45 p.m. A fire engine and a rescue truck responded, each with trained medical personnel on board. A medical unit vehicle in the neighborhood also responded.
Between their arrival at the gym and 4:22, when they left for the hospital, emergency workers attended to Marable on the basketball court, according to Singletary.
The medical unit arrived at Temple University Hospital at 4:30, according to hospital officials. Marable was declared dead at 4:50.