A strong showingduring recruiting season has rocketed blue-chip big man Kevin Love to the topof the class of 2007
Kevin Love wassix years old when he got his first opportunity to perform on a big stage. Heand his family were at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup to watch Kevin'suncle Mike Love sing lead for the Beach Boys. Toward the end of the group's setUncle Mike invited his family on stage, putting Kevin on the spot before 20,000fans. "He brought us in front of the microphone, but I got so embarrassednothing came out of my mouth," Kevin recalls. "If I get thatopportunity again, I think I'd be a little more poised."
Kevin doesn'tenvision any more music gigs in his future--"I definitely didn't get thesinging gene," he says--but he is already showcasing his other talentsbefore a growing audience. A 6'10", 250-pound senior from Lake Oswego(Ore.) High, Love possesses impressive strength, refined skills (his shootingrange extends beyond the three-point line) and an uncanny feel for the game,which is why many experts rank him as the top big man, if not the No. 1 overallplayer, in the class of 2007. Love's abilities have been on full display duringthe annual summer evaluation period for blue-chip recruits; he was voted aplayer of the week at the Reebok ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J., earlier thismonth, and his AAU team, the Southern California All-Stars, is favored to winthe Big Time Tournament this week in Las Vegas.
Love has beenintensely recruited since he was a freshman. Last March he narrowed his choicesto UCLA and North Carolina. He says he will announce his decision during theNovember signing period. "If he goes to UCLA, he could be a double-doubleguy as a freshman and still lead the league in assists," says one Pac-10assistant coach. Adds longtime recruiting maven Bob Gibbons, "Love is themost skilled big man I've seen in the last 10 years. He has the determinationand desire to work as hard as he can to be the best he can be. That's unusualnowadays."
Love might nothave inherited his uncle's musical DNA, but he got terrific hoops genes fromhis 6'8" father, Stan, who played at the University of Oregon from 1969 to'71 before spending four years in the NBA. "Kevin's better than I was, evenafter playing in the pros," Stan says. "If you're a basketball purist,he's fun to watch because he really knows how to play the game."
Kevin swears heremembers tossing basketballs from his walker into a hoop when he was atoddler. ("I probably made around 60 percent like I do now," he quips.)When he was in grade school, he spent hours at a time watching the highlightvideos of NBA players that his father bought him. He also routinely dominatedthe practices in which his brother, Collin, who is two years older,participated.
Kevin's approachto basketball became more serious after he entered high school. On a typicalschool day during the off-season he rises at 6 a.m. so he can have ahigh-protein breakfast (usually two eggs and a shake) and then get in two hoursof weights and shooting drills before his first class. He heads back to the gymwhen classes are over. Last summer his parents hired a personal trainer tooversee his development. "I decided I didn't want to be good anymore. Iwanted to be great," Kevin says. "That takes work, and I know whereverI go to college I'm going to have to work a lot harder to get where I want togo."
Stan, who grew upin Los Angeles and still has a lot of friends and family there, clearly hopeshis son will end up at UCLA, but he says it will be Kevin's decision. Whileplaying in Gibbons's Memorial Day tournament in North Carolina last May, Kevintook an unofficial visit to Chapel Hill that included a meeting with Dean Smithand pickup games against current and former Tar Heels. Kevin insists that beingso far away from his family wouldn't be a deterrent to playing for Carolina."The distance from home has nothing to do with basketball," he says."The important thing is where I fit in best. In the meantime I'm enjoyingthe recruitment. You only go around once, so I'm going to love it while Ican."
Love showcased his refined skills and his increasingly powerful physique at theABCD Camp.