Kevin Love is coming to UCLA, heralded as the school’s most prominent basketball recruit since Ben Howland became the Bruins’ coach four years ago.
Considering that UCLA has made the Final Four the last two seasons, it’s easy to see that much is expected of Love, who was rated among the nation’s best high school players at Lake Oswego High in Oregon.
Actually, Love was born in Santa Monica and once lived with his parents for a year in Pacific Palisades.
His father, Stan Love, played at Morningside High in Inglewood, at Oregon and then in the NBA, including one year with the Lakers.
When practice begins in October, Love is expected to quickly blend in with the returning players.
At 6-foot-9, 240, he was a dominant center in high school. But since UCLA has Lorenzo Mata returning at center, Love is likely to play power forward.
If that happens, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would shift to small forward and Josh Shipp to guard, where he would team with Collison and replace Arron Affalo, who left school early to enter the NBA draft.
Love has been compared to Bill Walton, one of UCLA’s all-time basketball greats, for the impact he has on a game. He’s well above average in scoring, rebounding, blocking shots and passing. His ability to take a defensive rebound and quickly throw the ball far down the court is exceptional and should lead to many easy baskets for teammates.
Love, like incoming USC freshman O.J. Mayo, would have been a high draft pick this week by an NBA team had he been eligible. But this is the second year of an NBA rule designed to make high school stars play one year of collegiate basketball before joining their league.
The two top high school players from a year ago, Greg Oden (Ohio State) and Kevin Durant (Texas), went to college after they were the first players affected by the rule. They’re NBA eligible now and are expected to be taken early – perhaps first and second – in the NBA draft Thursday, June 28.
It’s not certain that Love and Mayo will similarly leave college after one season, but USC Coach Tim Floyd has said he understands Mayo is likely to join the NBA that soon.
It is customary for freshmen to be worked into a collegiate start gradually, but Love isn’t expected to come off the bench. “If practice starts at 9 a.m. he’ll be a starter at 9:01,” said Don MacLean, UCLA’s all-time scoring leader who worked one of Love’s high school games last season as a television analyst.