Welcome to Minnesota

It’s been a whirlwind 1-1/2 years for Kevin Love. In the spring of 2007, he graduated from Lake Oswego High School in Oregon after a record-setting prep basketball career. Then he relocated down the West Coast to Los Angeles to attend college at UCLA. After an award-winning season for the Bruins, it was on to the NBA with his eventual destination of Minnesota following a draft day trade.

While at Lake Oswego, Love became the first Oregon prepster to be named player of the year three times. He led the Lakers to the state championship game three straight years and a state title in 2006.

Love opted to attend basketball history-rich UCLA and was an immediate success with the Bruins. He averaged team-highs in scoring (17.5) and rebounding (10.6) and led UCLA to the NCAA Final Four. Love became just the second freshman to win Pac-10 Player of the Year honors, joining Cal’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim in 1996.

Now Love is making his basketball home in Minnesota after the Wolves acquired him from Memphis.

“It’s been a quick turnaround,” Love said of his eventful past year. “I think the first time I got a chance to sit back and have my ‘I made it’ moment’ was in Portland in early November. I always wanted to play on that floor when I was young, growing up a Blazers fan. Everything over the last year has gone by so fast. College was like a blur for me. Even this past summer went by in a blur as well, so it’s been crazy.”

Settling In
By mid-November, Love felt that his transition to the NBA — on and off the court — was going fairly well. He was playing close to 25 minutes per game and averaging better than eight points and six rebounds. Although he was lamenting a shooting slump at the time, Love felt other aspects were going well.

“Defensively I feel fine and rebounding the ball I feel fine,” he said. “In the minutes I’m getting I’m being productive, so that’s the biggest thing I can do. I know as the season goes on, I’ll keep getting better.”

Off the court, Love will have to adapt to the Minnesota weather. His hometown of Lake Oswego, Oregon, only gets snow a few times a year and the average winter temperature is in the 40-50 degree range. So Love acknowledged in mid-November that a winter coat purchase needed to be made — but for someone 6-10, 255 pounds, that task wasn’t as easy to accomplish as it would be for an average-sized man.

“I went to a North Face store and they didn’t have anything that fit me,“ Love said. “Either it was long enough in the waist but the sleeves were six inches off my wrists, or the sleeves were too long and it came up past my bellybutton. So I’ll have to look on the Internet or somewhere. I don’t know where to get the extended clothes, the big clothes. I’ll have to figure something out, maybe a Rochester Big & Tall store or something like that.”

Love is also adjusting to being on his own. Actually, the Love brothers are on their own — Kevin’s older brother, Collin, is living with him in a Minneapolis apartment. The two brothers are close and it’s helped Kevin get acclimated to NBA life as Collin takes care of many day-to-day tasks.

“We’re brothers, essentially best friends,” Kevin said. “He takes care of the bills, makes sure that everything’s accounted for, especially with the dry cleaning, doing laundry, upkeep of the apartment...those are the main things. For me not to have to do that takes a little bit more stress off my shoulders.”

The younger Love is even getting around town a little bit. He was a guest of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak for a Fox Sports North feature, and, while he admits he’s mainly a homebody, he has ventured to the University of Minnesota campus with his brother to mingle with his peers.

“I mostly go from my apartment to Target Center and back,” he said. “I’m an in-home kind of guy. I play video games, watch movies and rest my body. But I still like to go out and have fun. I’ve been to the University a couple of times and I’ll be going to some of the Gopher basketball games. But the funny thing is, when I go out over there, people are like, ‘What are you doing here? You play for the Wolves.’ I ask them how old they are and they’re 21, 22. And I tell them I just turned 20. And they’re like, ‘Oh’ and they start getting it that I’m about the same age as they are. I would be a sophomore in college. So I like to go out and have fun, but usually I’m a homebody type of guy, resting myself for the job at hand.”

Also helping Love tackle the job at hand and adjust to the unusual schedule of an NBA player is his personal chef, Isaac. Kevin’s mom, Karen, said the family had discussed hiring a chef a while ago.

“Had we been able to afford it for him in college, we would have done that,” Karen said. “I think it’s a fabulous idea because these kids don’t eat right. Kevin has a wonderful chef now. I think it should be a major priority for these rookies to have someone cooking nutritious meals for them. It really keeps them going.”

Love said he was looking for — and found — someone who was able to fix healthy, low-fat foods, and had worked with athletes before.

“He (Isaac) kind of knows the things I go through,” Love said. “But I didn’t want him to be like a parent for me since I’m 20 years old living by myself. He’s definitely a good fit for what I was looking for.”

The Pied Piper
In Love, the Wolves got not only a talented basketball player, but a natural leader as well. Karen Love said that her youngest son has always been viewed as a leader, someone the other kids looked up to. Because of this, she said Kevin had to mature early and take on added responsibility to set a good example for others.

“Kevin hates this term...he always says, ‘Mom why do you always say that?’...but he was like the Pied Piper,” Karen recalled. “Kids just loved him and followed him. From the day he started kindergarten until he graduated from high school, he was always the one the kids turned to. He kind of had to grow up pretty fast because whatever he did in class, the kids followed. So the teachers were like, ‘Kevin, just pay attention because then the rest of the class will pay attention.’ So he had to grow up really fast. It was a lot of responsibility and he didn’t always think it was fair. Kevin is very witty and loves to laugh and have a good time. But he knew he couldn’t be the joker too often because if he made a face or something the whole class would laugh. I remember getting a call from his teacher one time and she said, ‘Kevin laughed in class today and that got the whole class laughing and I didn’t get anything done today.’ But usually he was a really good kid.”

Roundball Over Hardball
When he wasn’t trying to set a good example in the classroom, Love could usually be found playing sports — dominating in baseball and basketball. In fact, it was baseball where he gathered the most accolades in his early playing years.

“He actually pitched six or seven no-hitters, and then he pitched a perfect game one time in Little League,” Kevin’s dad, Stan, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We always thought he would go on through high school and really like baseball, but he got exposed to basketball pretty strong in fifth grade, and then in sixth, seventh and eighth he would go out on the AAU circuit.”

While Kevin excelled at baseball, the pull of his bloodlines helped draw him to basketball. Stan Love played in the NBA for four years in the early 1970s and was influential in Kevin’s affinity for the game and his development as a player. Another factor in Kevin’s decision to go the basketball route was the frequent downtime in baseball.

“I loved baseball while I was pitching,” Love said. “But when I wasn’t pitching, forget it. Occasionally I’d play first base and there would be a lot of action there. But when you’re out in the field forever, it’s not like gravy. Sometimes I think I could have been a pitcher, but baseball just wasn’t up-tempo enough for me.”

Baseball’s loss was basketball’s gain as Love threw himself into the sport, practicing for long hours and studying tapes of NBA all-time greats.

“He always asked for a ball and video tapes of the NBA greats,” Karen Love said. “That’s all he ever wanted for Christmas. All the other kids wanted Ninja Turtles or whatever the big thing was at the time, but he never got into those things. When he wasn’t out playing, he would sit in his room and watch NBA tapes.”

So Minnesota not only received a talented player in Love, they received a student of the game as well. He’s studied the greats and incorporated their moves into his game and continues to look for ways to improve. All Wolves fans hope Love is a quick study and can be the Pied Piper once again, leading the team back to the playoffs.

Welcome to Minnesota, Kevin!