Thursday, April 17, 2008

Love Was Only Here For A Quickie

Kevin Love took his time and waited for OJ Mayo, Derrick Rose, and Michael Beasley to make their announcements so he could have a day for himself. Fair enough, we all like to have a day in the sun every now and then. Now that day has come, and Kevin Love's brief college career is over. Fans of each of these schools must now ask themselves- was it worth it?

For USC, Memphis, and Kansas State, I think the answer is a resounding "yes." Mayo and Beasley helped put schools that have traditionally been minor players in college basketball on the map. Rose elevated Memphis to being within a few minutes of a national championship. If the trade-off for these new prominent roles in the basketball world is that the university serves as a half-way house between high school and the NBA, I think most fans will be willing to make that exchange. Obviously, their coaches are fine with the arrangement, as USC has Demar Derozan coming in and Tyreke Evans is going to Memphis. Both players are expected to be one-and-done next season.

For UCLA fans, the experience is a little bit different. (I should apologize for the elitist tone of this post. It wasn't my intent, but I can already feel it's headed that way.) UCLA is a school which holds on very dearly to its basketball tradition. The John Wooden legacy ended 30 years ago and yet it's still part of virtually every discussion about UCLA basketball. But where is the tradition in attending school for a grand total of six classes and then bolting? As has been stated ad nauseum, UCLA is about legacies. What kind of legacy did Kevin Love leave behind?

Of course, this would all have been moot had Kevin Love brought the team a championship. But that obviously didn't happen. (And history shows that it usually doesn't happen. Other than Carmelo's Syracuse team, no school has won a basketball championship while being centered around a freshman.) In fact, from a tournament standpoint, the Bruins were no better this year than they were a year before, despite their only loss being Arron Afflalo. Certainly, Love doesn't bear all the responsibility for that stagnancy- in fact, there were a few games which he won almost single-handedly. But at the same time, there's just a feeling of incompleteness about his stay at UCLA.

Unfortunately, it's the players that actually dedicate themselves to the school that have to make the biggest sacrifices to accomodate a one-and-done type player. A year ago at this time, Lorenzo Mata-Real was projected by some as being a tenuous second round pick if he continued his improvement in college. Instead, he spent his senior year as a cheerleader on the bench where he watched Kevin Love pursue his NBA dream while his own quietly faded away. Alfred Aboya was also a senior (scholastically- he still has one year of eligibility remaining if he opts for grad school) and he too spent what may ultimately be his final year in a role that became more and more reduced as the season went on and Love's endurance improved. One could also argue that the dip in Josh Shipp's confidence coincided with Kevin Love's rise to prominence. It may have been just that- a coincidence- but it would be understandable if asking Shipp to subjugate himself to the freshman was a blow to his psyche.

I don't blame Kevin Love one bit for leaving early. The NBA is his dream, and his stock is at its peak. He should leave. My question is if schools such as UCLA, UNC, Kansas, Duke, etc. should be taking players like Kevin Love in the first place. It just feels like selling out. Perhaps I'm naive for not thinking that all major schools have been selling out all along.

Ultimately, I feel like someone who's just been told by their mistress that the affair is over (umm..or so I would imagine). I knew it was just going to be a fling that would have to end eventually, but still, it's hard to hear it's over. I just wish the good times could last a little bit longer. So hey, about a quick pick-up game for old times sake?



At Thu Apr 17, 08:19:00 PM PDT , Blogger Scott said...

I really liked this post. I've had similar reservations about UCLA taking one-and-done players.

It looks like we could be in a much worse situation next year than if we had gotten a good but not great big man that would stick around for 3-4 years.


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