Get ready to love Kevin Love

I actually hate to cover high school freshmen. It has long been the policy of Cat Tracks to avoid coverage of younger players whenever possible. We felt like recruiting provided enough pressure on juniors, much less 14 year olds. That is one reason you have not read much about Jerryd Bayless and JayDee here. We only covered Nic Wise when it became apparent that Arizona was going to offer a scholarship and receive an early verbal. Despite that stance, we couldn't ignore one freshman phenom.

We had been hearing about Kevin Love for several months and decided we needed to see what all the hype was about. Within moments of watching the Portland Elite Legends in Las Vegas it became apparent that Kevin Love was something special. Had he been a junior, I would have instantly ranked among the top players in the class of 2005. However, Love is a freshman. The best player on the court was not a junior. He was not even a sophomore. No, he is a 15-year old freshman.

Love is put together. He's around 6-8 or 6-9 and still growing. More importantly, he's thick. He's not heavy, he's strong. He may not be ripped up and cut, but he is a solid young man.

Even more shocking is that he's a true low post threat. After watching several days of 6-11 players launching 15-foot jumpers, it was nice to see a player who could play with his back to the basket. His low post moves were polished and his drop step was deadly.

"Steve Jackson is my big man coach from Oregon State," Love explained. "He told me to keep my back to the basket and that my kill zone was down in the blocks. So that's where I play."

Love has already been billed as the best player in the class of 2007. That's a lot of pressure for a player who can't even drive a car yet. Many players who get such a high billing at a young age let it go to their head, but Love seems to be handling it just fine.

"It feels good because I'm 15, but it is still a lot of pressure," Love confessed. "I don't really let it get to my head at all. I mean of course I am flattered, anybody would with recruiters coming around. I don't let it get to my head or anything. I'll put it out of the way until I'm a junior."

It is still very early in the recruiting process, especially if Love stays firm with his plans to wait until after his junior year to make a decision. That does not mean he isn't forming a list of schools. As you could well imagine, the highly rated player is already looking at the best of the best.

"Of course the top schools are always people's favorite," Love said. "I'd say schools like Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, Duke, North Carolina and schools like that. I've always been a Duke fan. A Duke and an Oregon fan because my dad went to Oregon."

Love hails from Lake Oswego, Oregon, a community just outside Portland. It's also a town that has produced some very good players, including Mike Dunleavy and the UA's own Salim Stoudamire. With the age difference he doesn't really know those guys, but has played with a number of college and pro players from the Portland area.

Despite a lot of attention from fans and the media, Love likes the high-profile tournaments. Not only is it a chance to play competition from all over the country, but he feels like it is a better place to showcase his skills.

"I actually like it better than high school ball because it plays in with my game," Love said. "I'm real physical and it is real physical here. It's also a lot faster here."

Of course, these days when you speak to an elite big man, you have to address the NBA. Love was very honest about his approach to turning pro right out of high school.

"If it's there I'd consider it," Love admitted. "To be a Lottery pick you have to go because the guarantee and the money is there. I wouldn't pass up college if I wasn't a lottery pick."

CAT TRACKS' ANALYSIS: Love is good, very good. He lives up to the hype. It is a good sign that he is listing the Cats right now, but it is a long time until he picks a school and a little early too get too excited about Love.

Photos By Carl F. Shifflette III

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