In Kevin Love’s first game as a highly touted freshman for No. 2 UCLA, he’ll see a familiar name on the jerseys of his opponents.
Portland State is fewer than 10 miles from where Love grew up, in Lake Oswego, Ore., but the Vikings will have to travel to Love’s new home - Pauley Pavilion - to play the 6-foot-10 center and his Bruins teammates on Friday.
Love, the National High School Player of the Year last season for Lake Oswego High, has already made an impact in Westwood, where he had double-doubles in each of the Bruins’ two exhibition games.
The son of former NBA player Stan Love and nephew of Beach Boys singer Mike Love, the youngest Love is poised to become a star. Before ever playing a college game, he’s already drawn comparisons to former UCLA big men Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor.
Even if he doesn’t quite live up to those lofty standards, he should make UCLA - coming off consecutive Final Four appearances and a 2007 Pac-10 Conference title - a prime contender for its first NCAA tournament title since 1995. The Bruins did lose top scorer Arron Afflalo, who declared for the NBA Draft, but they return the seven of their top eight scorers, including point guard Darren Collison - a preseason All-American.
Collison, though, is questionable for Friday’s game after spraining his left knee in UCLA’s first exhibition game. UCLA also might be without top returning scorer Josh Shipp (sprained right thumb), and junior Michael Roll, who’s sidelined at least three weeks with a ruptured plantar fascia in his left foot.
“It is terrible timing because he has been playing so well,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said of Roll. “Mike, clearly, is one of the guys that makes our team the best offensive team it can be.
“Our guys are resilient and all very supportive of one another,” Howland added. “No one has a season-ending injury, so that is the good news. Josh will be fine by Friday, assuming that he doesn’t re-hit it, but he’ll be OK. Darren will hopefully be back by Friday, but we will just have to wait and see.”
UCLA’s frontcourt, though, is healthy and should present a problem for Portland State. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a 6-foot-7 forward who averaged 8.2 points and 7.4 rebounds last season, is back, along with Love and 6-foot-8 center Lorenzo Mata-Real.
The Vikings, though, have their own high hopes. They are coming off a 19-win season and return three of their top four scorers in seniors Dupree Lucas, Scott Morrison and Deonte Huff.
Portland State is 4-36 all-time against Pac-10 teams, but 2-2 under third-year coach Ken Bone, including wins over Arizona State and Oregon. They’re 0-7 against ranked teams since the 1996-97 season, losing only two of those games by single digits.
UCLA has not lost a season opener since 2002, when the Bruins fell to San Diego in overtime and finished 10-19.