Saturday, January 27, 2007

#2 LO Crushes #3 OC as Love Reigns, Again

Oregonians who love basketball--and I suspect even a lot who don't--loved Bill Walton. Somehow in a place with all those evergreens, it made sense that the best player to ply his wares in the Beaver State was a giant redwood. Big men just seem like our style.

If you liked Walton, get ready for another big man who has all but been anointed the Next Big Thing in basketball, Kevin Love. A 6'9'' manchild who is the son of former Duck, Baltimore Bullet and Oregon Hall of Famer Stan Love, Kevin is a senior for #2-ranked Lake Oswego, already has one state championship and is working on another, and will head for UCLA in the fall (like a certain Deadhead center 35 years ago).

The reviews of the #1 ranked college prospect are awesome, in that Reggie Bush only-every-so-often kind of way:
We have graded Love as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2007 because we believe he is the most fundamental high school basketball player in the last 25 years. He is the poster child for what is right with basketball today. The movement in our country is toward skill development and skills academies. Love has been in a skill development program from a young age with his dad, former NBA player Stan Love. Young players should study Love and use him as a role model to learn how to improve their own games.

Through hard work, discipline and dedication, Love has changed his body in the past three years. He has become a conditioned athlete with much better stamina. Love has dominating size (6-foot-9, 255 pounds) and has perfected his post repertoire so that he is deadly when he catches the ball down low. He can shoot with range, rebound and is the best-passing big man we have ever seen at his age. In fact, Kevin's middle name is Wesley, named after NBA great Wes Unseld, who had the best outlet pass in the pro game. Love understands shot selection, commands double teams in the post and knows how and when to deliver the ball to his open teammates.

Beyond that, Love is a warrior in the paint. He thrives on physical contact and is fearless around the hoop, where he can power the ball to the rim, take a hit and finish with a three-point play.
Nice review, eh? And once the games started this season, Love began delivering on the hype night after night, as much as 30 points and 20 rebounds a game. Friday night was no different, as the Lakers went just across the Willamette to Oregon City, and delivered a decisive thumping on the previously 3rd-ranked Pioneers by 22, holding them 25 points under their season average. Love had 39 points and 20 rebounds, including 21 points in a fourth quarter where the Lakers simply overpowered and abused the Pioneers down low, clearing the way for seven consecutive Love buckets, several of them dunks.

None of the bowl-flushers shattered the backboard like the thunderous slam he laid down during their game against Putnam two weeks ago, forcing it to be rescheduled, but this game had to be just as satisfying. The Lakers, now at 14-1 and 5-0 in the tough Three Rivers 6A conference, can be expected to roll over most teams. But the Pioneers have also been outstanding this year, and they are one of the few high school teams with the height to try to deal with Love. Jared Cunningham and Sam Schafer both stand 6'9'', and presented a rare in-state challenge (Love has played extensively against the best in the nation during several big tournaments, as have the rest of the Lakers). And to win like that on the road is impressive no matter who you play.

So as the season winds down and the Lakers try to become repeat champions (and Love continues his assault on Pudgy Hunt's 50-year state points record, currently 5th and 400 points from the title), keep an eye on the big man and go see him if you can. You may well earn the opportunity to say "He looked just as dominant to me before he became an NBA star, back in Oregon..."