LOS ANGELES, MARCH 7 -- Doctors who treated Hank Gathers for a heart ailment before his fatal collapse during a Sunday basketball game declined to comment today on reports the Loyola Marymount University star had been told to quit playing and may have stopped taking vital medication before his death.

"Although full disclosure of the details surrounding his medical evaluation and therapy would serve to end this ongoing speculation, we are inescapably bound by the strict confidentiality of his medical records," said a statement released this afternoon by Gathers's physicians, Michael Mellman and Vernon Hattori.

The Los Angeles Times quoted today an unnamed cardiologist as saying: "He was told not to play. You're through as an athlete." The Times said the same doctor said Gathers, the nation's leading college basketball scorer and rebounder in 1989, did not appear for his weekly treadmill test the week before he died and may have stopped taking Inderal, the drug prescribed to treat his cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, after he briefly fainted during a Dec. 9 game.

Barry Zepel, sports information director at the small, Jesuit-run university whose basketball team has brought it national prominence, said he knew of no warnings to Gathers to stop playing or any failure to take medication.

Zepel said school officials did purchase a defibrillator, a device used to shock a failing heart back into normal rhythm, to be carried to all basketball games after Gathers's ailment was diagnosed, but were under the impression that the 6-foot-7, 210-pound, irrepressible star was fit to play.

Team physician Benjamin Schaeffer used the defibrillator on Gathers after his collapse, university officials said, but it had no effect.

At an emotional memorial mass for Gathers Tuesday at Gersten Pavilion, where the star collapsed after scoring on a dunk Sunday, a parish priest who had known him since his north Philadelphia boyhood said Gathers hated all drugs, and particularly disliked taking Inderal, which he felt made him sluggish on the court.

The priest, Dave Hagan, said Gathers, 23, ordinarily took no drugs or alcohol and even hated the idea of professional athletes endorsing beer, since his father had suffered from alcoholism. But Hagan insisted Gathers had obeyed doctors' orders to stay on Inderal.

The Times quoted the unnamed doctor as saying: "We told Hank that if he wanted to live the best, he shouldn't exercise," but that the advice had no effect. "Hank Gathers was going to play basketball. It didn't matter what some doctor told him."

The doctor was quoted as saying "we're pretty sure" he did not take his medicine the week before his death "and we know that he didn't show up for his testing, which is supposed to be done on a weekly basis. And we know this was the week he was out to show the NBA scouts that he was big stuff."

Gathers, who had missed several games after the Dec. 9 fainting episode and was outspoken about his eagerness to return to last year's form, scored a spectacular dunk off an alley-opp pass Sunday to put his team ahead, 25-13, in a game against the University of Portland in the Western Athletic Conference tournament, then collapsed seconds later at midcourt.

While medics and doctors worked on him and rushed him to Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital, he regained consciousness a few times, but finally was pronounced dead less than two hours later.

Conference officials cancelled the rest of the tournament and declared LMU, the regular season winner, conference champion with an automatic right to play in the NCAA tournament. Zepel said the team, which includes Gathers's high school teammate and current national scoring leader Bo Kimble, voted today to participate in the playoffs and attended Gathers's funeral in Philadelphia Monday.

Zepel referred reporters asking about Gathers's medical treatment in the days before his death to the statement by the athlete's doctors, which said: "The rumors and speculations surrounding Hank Gathers's death are as disturbing to us as they must be to his family, his friends, and the general public. {But} his family has not given us permission to release any information, and until such permission is provided, further details cannot be released."

The statement said "efficacy of treatment was closely monitored on a regular basis, and we were in communication with Hank, his trainer and his coach at all times. Neither the ultimate circumstances surrounding his unfortunate death nor the causes thereof have been defined at this time. We are hopeful the autopsy results will serve to shed some light in that record.

"Hank Gathers' death is an almost incomprehensible tragedy to us . . ."

Gathers persuaded doctors to reduce the dose of medication after he returned to the court and seemed close to his old form in the last few games. Friends said he was looking forward to being drafted in the first round by the NBA and also was interested in turning his unusual charm and verbal dexterity into a broadcasting career.

At the memorial mass Tuesday, Hagan, who spent much of the time consoling Gathers's mother, Lucille, seemed bitter about the sacrifice the player and his family had made for the school and the game. "He broke his body for this university," Hagan said in the last remarks to the crowd of 5,000. He said LMU ought to create a fund to help the Gathers family financially and rename Gersten Pavilion for the late star.

"I hope the university will break its body for Hank," he said.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Gathers will be buried in Philadelphia on Monday, following morning memorial services. Family and friends, including teammate Bo Kimball, were scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia Thursday, with the remainder of the Loyola Marymount team scheduled to come Monday morning.

Gathers's high school, Dobbins Tech, will observe a day Friday in honor of the fallen star.