LAS VEGAS - Score a colossal recruiting victory for UCLA coach Ben Howland. Howland has landed marquee recruits before, but never outside of his own backyard and never quite on the level of the Bruins' latest commit.
Kevin Love, the nation's premier big man, announced he had verbally committed to UCLA at a press conference at Foothill High Tuesday afternoon. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound rising senior, who is from Lake Oswego, Ore., narrowed his long list of schools down to UCLA and North Carolina months ago.
"I'm going to be a Bruin," Love said as he put on a UCLA hat. "I made my decision right after the ABCD camp (July 4-9), but wanted to wait five or 10 days and sleep on it to make sure it was the right place. After I did I knew UCLA was the right place for me. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of other UCLA legends."
Love, who is top-ranked center and the No. 5 overall prospect in the class of 2007, called Howland with the news on Tuesday and said the coach was "almost crying" and felt like he was "walking on air."
Howland hasn't landed a five-star recruit since the first class he put together at UCLA in 2004, which included five-star guards Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, who are both from the Los Angeles area. Afflalo attended the press conference along with former Bruin Cedric Bozeman.
Love liked Howland's recruiting pitch, and spoke to many of the top big men who have played at UCLA, but location may have been the biggest factor when he compared the Bruins and the Tar Heels. He wanted his father, Stan, who played at the University of Oregon and in the NBA, and the rest of his family to be able to see him play on a regular basis.
"I'm really close to my family and by staying on the West Coast they can watch me play all the time which is a big deal," he said. "I've talked to all of the (great UCLA post players) except Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. I know it's going to be big time to follow what they did but I'm definitely up for the challenge and I want to see if I can help put UCLA back where it was."
Love is a throwback type of player known more for his power, toughness and versatile set of skills than his athleticism. He does most of his damage around the basket, relying on a variety of post moves and a great knack for hunting down rebounds, but can also step back and hit deep jumpers and is a tremendous passer from the perimeter.
Love has dominated at the AAU level and at shoe camps for more than a year. He carried his talent-laden SoCal All-Stars team, which is loaded with other highly-ranked prospects, to the title at the prestigious Houston Kingwood Classic in April, and was also the leading scorer (19.1 points per game) and rebounder (9.3 rpg) at the ABCD camp in Teaneck, N.J.