Posted: Monday July 18, 2005 3:23PM; Updated: Monday July 18, 2005 5:16PM
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Stan Love only would allude to the current situation at Oregon, where head coach Ernie Kent, following a disappointing 14-13 season, has been the subject of swirling rumors about his personal life. The U of O sent out a press release on Thursday entitled "Kent's Contract Extended Through 2010," re-announcing an extension that was made in June and making note of a standard one-year rollover in Kent's contract. But Oregon athletic director Bill Moos told the Portland Tribune that while Kent "hasn't done anything inappropriate," the coach was having marital problems. "Ernie's struggling with some personal issues, and it's tough on him and his family," Moos said.
While Oregon hopes Love eventually will warm up to the local U -- a scenario that doesn't seem likely -- the rift between the Loves and Nike doesn't seem to be affecting Kevin's interest in other universities. Of his favorites, five are swoosh schools -- Arizona, Washington, North Carolina, Duke and UConn -- and the other two, Kansas and UCLA, wear adidas. It's doubtful any coach with a Nike deal would stop recruiting Love due to a shoe-brand battle; the 16-year-old has the makings of an elite D-I power forward and possesses superb fundamentals and passing ability for a big man. Powerhouse schools already were pursuing Love prior to his ABCD camp performance, but his play in Hackensack greatly enhanced his national reputation -- a fact that lessened the blow of Nike's knee-jerk reaction.
But while the rest of Love's former Portland AAU team was competing at the Peach Jam, he was at home in Lake Oswego, sleeping in and living the summer life of a normal teenager. He had some of his high-school teammates over to watch video of the ABCD All-Star game, and "they just kept rewinding Bill Walker's dunks over and over," Stan said. Kevin did his best to put Nike's termination notice out of his mind, making plans to join a new AAU team -- possibly Taylor King's Southern California All-Stars -- and play in the Reebok Big Time tournament in Las Vegas. Above all, Love kept repeating what he said to his dad before Crenshaw spoiled their dinner: "I had the greatest basketball experience of my life."
It shouldn't matter that Love started out as a Nike kid and then participated in a Reebok event, or that he played on a Nike AAU team and grew up outside of Portland in Nike's backyard. What should matter is that he's 16 and shouldn't be caught in the ugly crossfire of a sneaker war. By severing its ties with the youngster, Nike had an agenda "to make an example" of his son, Stan Love said.
Nike made an example -- of how shoe companies expect elite amateur teens to place brand loyalty above everything, including their own development, with the penalty for straying being banishment from AAU teams and events. And just as Nike is big enough to survive without Kevin Love in its grip, Kevin Love is big enough to survive without Nike. He'll have plenty of offers for new AAU teams. He should land in the starting lineup of an NCAA power and eventually, if his game keeps developing, in the NBA.
All Kevin Love was looking for when he went to the ABCD camp was an "experience." He ended up having two, divergent adventures -- an unforgettable one on the hardwood, and a disheartening one with the business of summer basketball. These days, it's becoming tougher to get one without the other.