Good night for young talent.

Calling Kevin Love phenomenal might be understating his basketball abilities. The 6-8 center for Lake Oswego (Ore.) HS, had a fair showing against archrival Lakeridge on Friday night. Love ended up the evening with 14 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, five blocked shots and a steal leading the Lakers to a 70-61 win over the Pacers. Not a bad night for the Lake Oswego varsity or for Love either considering he is only a freshman.

Love's basketball exploits are growing weekly. During the Christmas break last December, Love was named Most Valuable Player at the Les Schawb Invitational Tournament, held at the University of Portland. Lake Oswego played Redmond in one round and Kevin faced Maarty Leunen, the 6-8 power forward and a player bound for the Oregon Ducks. Leunen guided Redmond to the State 4A Boys Basketball Championship last year but the Panthers were no match and lost in a 55-35 blow out. Perennial Oregon high school power house Jesuit won the tourney by beating Lake Oswego 64-42.

As word spreads around the Portland area more and more curious onlookers are showing up at high school gyms on Tuesday and Friday nights just to see how good this kid really is. Love was recently sidelined with an illness but last week against Milwaukie High School, the smooth skilled big man in his second game back from illness simply took over the game when the Mustangs had cut the Oswego lead to six points. Love scored 18 points in the fourth quarter allowing the Lakers to pull away to a 66-54 win, despite being physically pushed and held.

The Lakers improved their record to 12-6 against Lakeridge and avenged an earlier 52-43 loss. Lake Oswego is now battling Oregon City for the Three Rivers League title. Love's bout with illness accounts for why the Lakers are now in second place and not first, but somehow it is hard to imagine the Lake Oswego team not being around when playoffs finally arrive. Kevin will see to that. He seems to have a maturity about him that allows him to see the game on a plane that not many do.

His outlet passes are so forceful and accurate that many Portlanders can only recall one other player having the same type of passing skills -- No. 32, Bill Walton of the 1977 World Champion Trailblazers.

"He has an innate ability to throw outlet passes," said Rob Closs, a color commentator for the Oregon Sports Network and former Duck player. Closs has seen Love play eight times already this season and is awed by the youngster's play.

"I'd take him right now at Oregon," Closs remarked.

Kevin is so good at all of the basics such as rebounding, passing, shooting and playing solid position defense that one could seriously see him playing at the Division I level and may be good enough to start on most teams this year. Some wonder if Love was to grow two more inches if he would find the NBA calling ala LaBron James. Maybe most impressive about Kevin Love's game are the things that aren't counted in a statistical notebook. He keeps his hands up and his fingers spread widely while his legs spread to form a solid, balanced base. His ability to be in the right place at the right time was well demonstrated when a Lakeridge guard made a left handed drive to the basket. Love was waiting, coiled up and with a devastating leap, the ball was cleanly block. The chant, "you were swatted" quickly erupted from the Laker student body section.

The cross-town students from Lakeridge could only watch. They had their say earlier when they chanted "overrated" at Love after he had missed a free throw attempt. Looking back, it was probably the wrong thing to say to Kevin. In the final few minutes of the game, Love swatted away shots, kept control of the backboards with good rebounding position. Even though he racked up his fourth personal foul early on in the fourth quarter, Love played with great poise and intelligence and stayed in the game. The outcome with him in the line up was never in doubt. Lake Oswego will take on third placed Putnam next Tuesday night at Putnam with tip-off scheduled at 7:30 p.m.

"Don't ever get him fired up," said Stan Love, Kevin's dad about the taunting chant. "That's when he really gets into it."

Stan Love made a name for himself in the late 60's when he came to the University of Oregon from Morningside High School in Inglewood, California. The senior Love played for the Ducks from 1967-71 before going on to the Baltimore Bullets (now Washington Wizards) for a four year NBA career. Stan was an All Pac-8 player and led the conference in scoring. Love and his wife have three children, Colin, 17, Kevin, 15 and Emily, 10. Kevin started playing basketball nearly as soon as he could walk.

One rumor that may be true is that Kevin is a student of the game of basketball and apparently is willing to ask good questions of coaches. He must learn from watching because during one play, Kevin got the ball at the high post and made a beautiful step move to the basket.

"He learned that move from watching No. 52 at Stanford," yelled a proud papa over the crowd noise and referring to 6-10 forward Matt Haryasz of the second ranked Cardinal.

The move was smooth and for basketball fans that view the game as an art form -- it was a Picasso in high-tops. Love has power, skill and grace in his game. Leaving the gym crowded well beyond the fire marshal's limit, one could see the smiling faces of those basketball fans that had come for no other reason than to see Love play. The look on their faces was telling as they appreciated what they had just witnessed and they wondered what would he be like when he's 16.

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