A Fight Between Friends (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday November 13, 2007 10:32AM; Updated: Thursday November 15, 2007 8:30AM
Love can put up big numbers, too. UCLA coach Ben Howland thinks the 6' 9" 271-pounder from Lake Oswego (Ore.) High has the chance to become the first freshman in Bruins history to average a double double in points and rebounds. Love can work the low blocks and step out to shoot the occasional three-pointer, but what makes him unique is his ability to whistle 50-foot outlet passes to fast-breaking guards -- a skill that has earned him comparisons with the best-passing big men of all time, players like Wes Unseld and Bill Walton. "He's going to be one of the best outlet passers people have seen in quite a while," says Howland. "He has great strength, and he can really fire the ball."
In some ways Love's profile resembles the one Oden had with Ohio State last season. Love may be three inches shorter, but like Oden, he's a throwback big man with enough talent surrounding him to challenge for a national title. And developing chemistry with his teammates shouldn't be an issue. In Love's first games alongside junior guard Darren Collison at a camp in New Orleans last summer, he fired court-length chest and overhead passes that Collison turned into layups without taking a dribble. "We just started connecting," Collison says. "I use my speed to get all the way down the court, and as soon as he gets the rebound he likes to throw it. We're talking full-court distance." Afterward, NBA scouts were stunned to discover that it was the first time the two had played together.
Best of all, Love's arrival should herald UCLA's transformation from a gear-grinding half-court attack into the fast-breaking college version of -- dare we say it? -- Showtime. "No matter what you do, you can't stop it," says Love, "because even if I hit my guy at half-court, the ball travels faster than anybody's going to run. My teammates will be there filling the lane, and it's going to be a three-on-two or two-on-one situation. Even if they send their players back [downcourt], they're never going to get an offensive rebound."
Love certainly isn't lacking in confidence. In the space of an hour he stakes a claim that would seem preposterous for any other collegiate post player ("I feel like I'm the best passer in the country"); apologizes in advance to the defenders his passes will bamboozle ("You'll see me laughing on the court sometimes this year. It's funny to me. I'm almost playing a game with them"); and expresses his desire to take the last shot when games are on the line ("I want everything to be riding on my shoulders").
If everything goes according to plan, Love explains, the acclaim will take care of itself. "When it comes to Los Angeles, there's Kobe Bryant, and then there's Kevin Love and O.J. Mayo," he says, lowering his right hand from eye level to chin level. "We're trying to be two young princes, big stars of L.A. But that comes with winning and playing well."
The tale is already part of basketball lore. In November 2005 Tim Floyd welcomed an unexpected visitor to the USC basketball office whom he swears he had never met before. As Floyd tells it, the stranger asked him, "How would you like the chance to coach O.J. Mayo, the Number 1 prospect in the country?"
"Who wouldn't?" replied Floyd, who hadn't sent Mayo a single recruiting letter. "Who are you?"
"Why would this young man listen to you?" Floyd asked.