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Feelin' the Love

Old-school hoops phenom turning heads all over

Posted: Friday March 2, 2007 6:12PM; Updated: Saturday March 3, 2007 11:26AM
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Kevin Love
Free-throw shooting is just one of the fundamentals that Kevin Love is good at.
Photo© Louis Lopez / Cal Sport Media
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Kevin Love is getting reprimanded. If you look at the stat sheet it makes no sense. He has 37 points and 25 rebounds, but Lake Oswego Coach Mark Shoff knows better. Unlike everyone else in this tiny affluent town just south of Portland, Shoff knows Love isn't perfect, although most coaches and scouts who have made the pilgrimage to come see him play say he's as close as it gets.

"I told him that he didn't play very well," says Shoff. "I want him to play hard for 32 minutes. I'm trying to get him to reach his full potential. He's absolutely dominating high school basketball like it's never been seen before but he can still play at a higher level."

The stats would certainly bear that out as Love, who committed to UCLA last summer, enters this weekend's playoffs just 78 points shy of becoming Oregon's all-time leading scorer.

"He's the best player I've ever coached," says Shoff.

What makes Love so special, however, isn't his post moves, which have been compared to Elton Brand, or 3-point stroke, which has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki, but his uncanny ability to hit teammates with full-court outlet passes time after time. It's a talent so rare that most have to go back to Wes Unseld to find a counterpart. His knack for the pass was the first thing that came up when we caught up with Love just before the playoffs began.

SI.com: Your highlight reel is filled with one outlet pass after another. It's probably the most talked about part of your game, which is saying something for a 6-foot-10 power forward. Where does that come from?

Love: I've worked on every aspect of my game, but passing comes the most natural. It is something I've worked on, but it's something I've been blessed with; being able to see things that other players might not be able to see. It's really an instinctive thing.

SI.com: Do you have one pass in particular that sticks out in your mind as your favorite?

Love: One that sticks out was when I was at the Elite 24 in New York City. I think they have it on YouTube. I sent a full court outlet alley-oop to Michael Beasly and he actually 360 dunked it.

SI.com: How quickly do your teammates understand that the outlet pass is an intregal part of your game and that once you get the rebound they should find a lane and get down the court?

Love: I studied a lot of tapes of Bill Walton and Wes Unseld. Wesley is actually my middle name. I've studied what he did, and I've shown my teammates the tapes and they know when I get the ball, or if I even have a chance of getting a rebound, someone's got to go down the court.

SI.com: You've been called a student, and even historian, of the game. Where does that come from?

Love: My dad put the ball in my hands and had me working at an early age but he also had me watching tapes of the Showtime Lakers with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. He also showed me tapes of some of those rivalry games between the Lakers and the Celtics with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. I would also watch instructional tapes from different players like Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan.

SI.com: Do you have a favorite tape that you've watched over and over?

Love: There were a couple of Pete Maravich tapes I like when he tells stories about how he'd spin the ball on his finger for hours. There was a Celtics tape that I loved in which Walton, McHale and Bird explained different post moves and passes and explained how to ignite a fast break. I've watched those tapes so many times.

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