KEVIN LOVE averaged 33.6 points a game as a senior and is Oregon's all-time leading scorer, with 2,628 points—but it's his passing that opens a window into what makes the 6'10" Lake Oswego (Ore.) High center one of the nation's top players. The ease with which Love flicks outlet passes is so rare that his highlight reel is filled not with his numerous dunks or clutch three-pointers but with full-court, on-the-mark darts that set up teammates for scores. His coach, Mark Shoff, says one college coach has told him that Love is the best-passing big guy ever. "I mean of anybody, ever," Shoff reiterates, "including NBA guys."
Love's passing has been compared to Wes Unseld's, which makes sense—and not just because Kevin's father, Stan, a former NBA forward, played with Unseld from 1971 to '73 and gave Kevin the middle name Wesley for his former teammate. Love is consciously copying the Hall of Fame center. "I've studied what he did, and I've shown my teammates the tapes," says Love. "They know that when I get the ball on our end, or if it looks like I might get a rebound, someone's got to go down the court."
Love has been studying video since he was a toddler. "When other kids were watching Big Bird, he was watching Larry Bird," says Stan, now in sales with a produce company. "At age seven he didn't want the regular birthday or Christmas presents. He wanted these old basketball tapes, and he would take them to his room and play them over and over before he went to sleep."
On Saturday, in the Oregon 6A final, Love had 37 points and 15 rebounds, but Lake Oswego lost to South Medford 58--54. Now it's on to UCLA—a fitting choice given his family background. His father played with the Lakers, and his uncle, Beach Boys singer Mike Love, has his own connections to Southern California. The Bruins' storied program also appeals to Love's sense of hoops history. "I got to sit down and talk to Coach [John] Wooden when I made my decision," Love says of the coach who won 10 titles at UCLA (page 84). "I just feel great that I get to follow in that tradition." And, with his unique skills, maybe he'll make some history of his own.
Lake Oswego, Ore.