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Going national

Moore, Love enjoying the perks as players of the year

Posted: Monday March 26, 2007 2:02PM; Updated: Wednesday March 28, 2007 12:30PM
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McDonald's National player of the year Kevin Love took time to play with Quentin Harris at the Ronald McDonald House on Sunday.
McDonald's National player of the year Kevin Love took time to play with Quentin Harris at the Ronald McDonald House on Sunday.

NEW YORK -- Three thousand miles from his family's home in Lake Oswego, Ore., Kevin Love, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound McDonald's national Player of the Year was eating a cheeseburger and fries (not a golden arches' extra value meal) at a table tucked into the back corner of Times Square's ESPNZone last Friday when he decided to mention a parochial puzzle he's been chewing on for a few days.

"You know I come out here to New York and I get the McDonald's national player of the year award," says Love, who averaged 34 points, 18 rebounds, and six assists this season. "I also find out that I have won the Naismith Award, the Wooden Award, and the Parade player of the year awards. Back home in Oregon, though, I only tie for state player of the year with Kyle Singler. Go figure."

Having won the Beaver State's top individual award the previous two years, Love shared the award with his rival this year. "My team lost to his in the state playoffs, but it wasn't like he outplayed me," says Love, who led Lake Oswego to its first Class 4A state title as a junior and lost, 58-54, to Singler's South Medford (Ore.) team in the Class 6A title game this season. "I just think it's ironic."

Ironic or not, it is Love who will go down in history as leaving one of the most iconic legacies the nation has seen from a prep player. Whether it was setting the Oregon state scoring record with 2,628 points or becoming the state's first sophomore to win Player of the Year two years ago, the UCLA signee's demeanor is understated and professional. He carries no excess baggage and his entourage is strictly familial with his mother, Karen, and father, Stan, on hand to show the equivalent of a prodigy's photo album featuring snapshots of the 18-year-old star meeting Jay-Z at the ABCD camp, standing shoulder to shoulder with Tyler Hansbrough, and greeting Dean Smith on his recruiting visit to North Carolina. For a player who spent an hour with 96-year-old John Wooden in the UCLA basketball offices while on an unofficial visit to Pauley Pavilion last year, forgive him if he is taking all the pageantry with a professional's perspective.

"It's such an honor to receive the award, but now they're piling up," Love says. "I'm working out in my gym at school, and coach just comes in now and tells me, 'Kevin, You got another one of the national player of the year awards'. It's not like it's not great to get them, but we're getting used to them now."

Though Love may be accustomed to the player of the year honors, it is Maya Moore who is the real veteran. As a junior, the UConn signee from Collins Hill High (Suwanee, Ga.), about 30 minutes northwest of Atlanta, won the Naismith national player of the year award, proving to be ahead of her time while thinking that Tina Charles from New York's Christ the King would win the award before heading to UConn last fall.

"We were just awaiting the All-American team announcements and thinking that there was no way that Tina was not going to win the Naismith award," says Moore, a 6-foot forward who led Collins Hill to three state championships and this year's national title while going 125-3 in her four-year career. "But then I got summoned to the principal's office, and I'm thinking what did I do? I walk in and there's the principal, my coach, and two administrators. My coach asks me if there's anything I would like to say, and I had no clue what he was talking about. He was in interrogation mode, and they led me on for a few minutes until they told me. I just started to cry and hug everyone."

This year Moore was nonchalantly informed that she won. No pomp, no circumstance, just an acknowledgement of the nod that she received from the Naismith committee in honor of her play.

Last week, Moore and Love went on tour to promote Wednesday's games (the girls play at 5:30 p.m., the boys at 8) at Louisville's Freedom Hall. Moore and Love flew into New York's JFK airport last Wednesday, caught up on sleep, then toured ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn. on Thursday before heading to New York City on Friday. Though winners of the highest level of high school praise, news of Tubby Smith's departure from the Kentucky trumped their segment on ESPN's Cold Pizza, which was supposed to be live but was instead taped for airing on Monday morning.

"Tubby big-timed us," Love says.

With the all-star games typically awash in the ebb and flow of sloppy defense and unconscionable offense, Love and Moore have nothing left to prove on the court, but still there are the banquets to attend.

"Gatorade," Moore says when asked if she is awaiting word from anywhere else. "We haven't heard from the Gatorade people yet about the player of the year awards."

"I wonder if we'll have to travel for that one," Moore's mother, Kathryn, interjects.

"We have to travel for all of them," says Moore.