LOVE @ Pauley: Something Rare, Something Holy

I will try to make this my only post (hopefully) on this topic until our Ben Ball season is over. Robin Norwood from the LA Times explores the not so original topic whether Love will return to UCLA for his sophomore season today. For the part Kevin Love (and his Dad) are being coy with their answers but IMHO they are also being genuine:

[T]he season is rapidly evaporating, and Love has noticed.

"I really can't believe it," he said. "It's funny you say that, I was thinking about that yesterday. I was thinking, 'Tomorrow, we're halfway through the Pac-10.' It's really crazy to me. But the second half is where it all counts. It's about how you finish, not how you start. So hopefully we'll win the Pac-10 outright and end up in San Antonio somehow."

There's a reasonable assumption, even within the UCLA coaching staff, that Love is a one-year player. If nobody left early, the Bruins would be over the scholarship limit for next season after signing four players, so they're expecting Love and/or Darren Collison to be gone.

"It's really going to depend on what the team does, but right now, I'm a Bruin," Love said. "We're going to sit down after the season and assess my options, but we have a great recruiting class coming in next year. I was talking to the coaches the other day. . . . If we have everybody back next year, it could be a scary team."

His father, Stan Love, seemed to add credence to the UCLA postseason's having an effect on his son's decision.

"It's hard to say," he said. "We'll see how we do in the Pac-10 tournament and then in the NCAA tournament."

I think for now we will have to leave it at that. Personally IMHO Kevin Love will not return to UCLA next season. I don't think it matters whether or not we think he is ready for the next level. I don't think it matters whether we think he can benefit by staying around another extra year at UCLA. I think whether or not Love will go pro depends on Loves' own calculations of benefits/costs on going pro after one year. And if he and his family think he is ready, then more power to them.

FWIW I am set with the mindset that these are Love's last few weeks at UCLA. And I am soaking in and enjoying every minute of this:


Photo Credit: Jack Rosenfeld

Not only Kevin Love has been everything we hoped he'd be, he has been a perfect Bruin on and off the court. No matter how talented an athlete is going from high-school to college is always a huge adjustment. And as Katz noted in his ESPN story, Love has made that adjustment by taking in the teachings of Coach Howland and his staff (emphasis added):

"It was a big adjustment, I'm not going to lie," Love said of going from high school to college. "The first part of the season, I felt like I was never going to get it down. But I kept listening to the coaches."

Love said he always needed to be in a defensive stance and had to get used to not taking plays off defensively, a luxury he was afforded in high school against lesser competition.

And his coaches and his team-mates are soaking in his presence. From Painter in the DN

:

[I]f there's anything Howland loves, it's rebounding and defense, and Love has been stellar at both. He's the best freshman Howland's ever seen. Howland added he didn't see Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he was a freshman. Of course, freshmen couldn't play on the varsity team then.

"He's right there," Howland said. " He doesn't play like a freshman. He is dominant. He's pretty efficient, too."

Howland pointed to Love's four offensive rebounds, three of which Love tipped in for baskets.

Love's supremacy has been aided by the emergence of Darren Collison, who's playing his best basketball of the season. Then there's Russell Westbrook, Josh Shipp and everyone else, which means teams can't focus on Love.

"A lot of it is because I'm getting one-on-one opportunities," Love said. "Even if I get a double-team, I'm three to four feet from the basket and I can make an easy shot."

No wonder Love seems to be so adored by his team-mates. While watching the games I often watch the reactions of Love and his team-mates when he makes a spectacular play (which has become regular in recent weeks) or when his team-mates do something special. The way they root for each other, it comes across to me as something very special and authentic that cannot be faked. And that is why I don't take comments like this lightly (from Norwood's article):

"I want to win a national championship. That's the bottom line," Love said. "We're up at the Washington schools next week and every game is a steppingstone. . . .

"I haven't been thinking about the next level at all.

"If it comes, it comes. As of right now, I'm just a Bruin."

That's it really. I think I am just going to take his word and enjoy it for now.

I do think we should all soak in every moment of Love in these last few games with the idea that he will not be back. I belive what we are seeing in him is something special. Something generational. I never got to watch the Big Fella or the Big Red in UCLA uniforms. So I have got to think this is what it must have felt like when they were performing in the Cathedral of college basketball. And I am going to treat his appearances accordingly.

Instead of agonizing on whether he will come back or not let's give him and his family the space to make the right decision for them (and I believe they will make the right decision for themselves and I will be fully supportive of it), let's celebrate a latest Bruin legend in making.

I just happen to think Love at UCLA is something rare.

Something holy.

GO BRUINS.

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