Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gotta Love that Kevin

College basketball season is upon us, and I'm going all atavistic as usual, focused on my UCLA Bruins. They're ranked number 2 in the country now, and it could be their year (I know that's perhaps a bit boring to non-Bruins, but you can skip this one if you like.)

They hit the Final Four last year and the Final Two the year before, but didn't take it all. But this year they have Kevin Love from Oregon. The 6'10", 270-lb. Freshman was either the first or second-rated high school prospect in the country last year, and everybody figures he'll give the Bruins a dominant inside presence this year that they didn't really have previously (although Lorenzo Mata-Real came through big in a few games). Most of the sportswriters think he'll spend only a single year at UCLA and move right into the NBA.

Anyway, I watched them on TV tonight, and if anything this Kevin Love is better than advertised. He had averaged 21 points in his first two games, and tonight against Cal State San Bernardino (Division II but deep into the playoffs last year) he got 19, and I think 9 rebounds. What's impressive is that he seems like a complete, mature player, and in his first few games as a Freshman he looks as if he's emerged as the clear team leader. He does just about everything well. And he's strong, which not all players that big are.

The Bruins got at least six points off pinpoint outlet passes to a streaking player downcourt after Love got the defensive rebound. He plays hard and hustles, plays good defense and blocks shots. He's a team player, looking to feed other players and taking his own shot only if it's really the best one on the floor. I think he'll turn out to be one of those players, like Magic Johnson, who makes everybody on the team better just by being there, setting an example, and being aware of the entire court.

Whether you care a whit about UCLA or not, if you like basketball even a llittle bit, you would do well to watch this kid -- kid? he seemed like the oldest, most experienced player on the floor -- play the game.

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