Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Howland Marvels At Love's Development

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

With Kevin Love piling up postseason honors on his resume, most notably his recent AP First-Team All-American selection, UCLA Coach Ben Howland took time to reflect on his good fortune of having Love in Westwood this season.

As one of the highest profile prep stars to join the Bruins in decades, Love has had to deal with lofty expectations.

"When you’re ranked the No. 1 high school player in the country, there are high expectations," Howland said. "The great thing is, I think he’s exceeded my expectations for how good he would be as a freshman and I have high expectations. He’s done a great job."

After breezing through the early portion of the non-conference schedule and racking up double-doubles, Love found himself in a unfamiliar spot on the bench at the end of a close contest against Texas.

Howland, looking for better interior defense, went with senior Lorenzo Mata-Real down the stretch against the Longhorns - a game UCLA eventually would lose 63-61. Mata-Real is a veteran player who started every game as a junior and was familiar with the team's defensive scheme. Clearly at the time, the UCLA coach did not have the confidence yet in his freshman phenom on the defensive end.

But Love got the message from the game - loud and clear. Even a player, who was averaging a double-double, would ride the pine under Howland if he couldn't defend.

Love has improved his defense tremendously over the course of the season. His rotations are quicker, his hedges on screens are more crisp, to the point he can be a defensive force in the paint. Against Texas A&M, Love recorded seven blocked shots. Moreover, at the end of the conference season, he received honorable mention for the Pac-10 All-Defensive Team.

"I didn’t make much defense in high school," Love said. "I just kind of stood around and waited for rebounds and got four, five blocks a game, but other than that I wasn’t out 20 feet from the basket trying to defend, but I’ve gotten a lot better."

"He’s developed into a good defensive player," Howland said. "And a lot of it is the experience of learning so many new things. Every program is different in terms of how they play defense, or what they teach. We have a lot of intricate rotations and we expect to do things defensively that are sometimes, maybe, unique. But he’s really, really tough, he’s hard-nosed, he’s really become a good defensive player."

In addition to his improvement on defense, Love has been the major cog in the UCLA offense. At the beginning of the season, Love predicted he might be able to average a double-double, a prediction Coach Howland thought at the time would be extremely difficult to acheive considering the high level of competition the Bruins would face game in and game out. Yet, Love has been a double-double machine, averaging 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds.

With the tremendous success that Love individually and his team has achieved on the court, its highly likely this will be his only season at UCLA. But Howland understands the reality of the current environment in collegiate sports and is realistic and supportive of his star players.

It’s more difficult from the standpoint of being able to plan the future," Howland said. "Having a great player for one year or two years is still a great problem that you want to have. You want to get the best players that fit into the program that are good kids. Arron Afflalo is already planning to come back and take some summer school classes to continue working toward finishing his degree; he’s very close. Those are great kids, so I appreciate the opportunity to work with them."

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_t4vbPWsiQ&hl=en]
(Kevin Love at West Regional courtesy of Erkki Corpuz)

(photo by Bruin Basketball Report)



At Apr 2, 2008, 1:26:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

That a kid..you are always welcome back to join the Fab 4 Freshmen next year....
imagine that team...young but full of studs...
Hang a banner boyzzzz

At Apr 2, 2008, 2:23:00 AM, Anonymous Brew In said...

Next season, I would buy a brew for every fan in attendance at Pauley's opening game if KLove is still in his Baby Blue & Gold uniform!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It would be worth it!

At Apr 2, 2008, 6:00:00 AM, Anonymous jake said...

Ha ha ... I'll kick in Nachos to go with the Brew. Somebody else want to kick in the Love Two shirts ...

At Apr 2, 2008, 8:59:00 AM, Anonymous ed said...

too bad that Love will miss the memory of one or 2 nat'l championships (if we lose this weekend)...the millions are there waiting for him and not going anyplace..ask Kareem, Walton, the florida kids, the mannings, etc if they regret delaying their departure....especially when he supposedly has no problem with helping his family or in going to class (as so many early outs may have)..oh well, we all made decisions at 19 0r 20 which we later regretted

At Apr 2, 2008, 9:24:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

BBR, can you copy the Sports Illustrated article today about how we overcame injuries....I mean, we have not had a healthy team all year...Collison missed the first 6 games of the season, then when he got back Roll went out....Howland should have been the Pac-10 Coach of the Year....

At Apr 2, 2008, 1:25:00 PM, Anonymous DB said...

Big mans are lesser concern regarding injuries by staying another year than guards. This is not to say there are no such injuries that can hamper a big mans game.
Usually the biggest injuries other than preventing you from competing anymore are the ones that prevent you from moving well or not as fast or agile as before. Klove has neither agility, speed, or great movements so its a lesser risk staying another year injury wise than say Collison.
However millions of dollars usually make people do a lot of things they other wise probably wouldnt do or yet to do.
I am going to say he stays another year as a Bruin fan and as someone who doesnt think he will make a big impact player at the next level yet. Big mans that can go double double are many at the next level.


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