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Oregon Hoop Exports Making Waves As Freshmen

With the NCAA basketball tournament looming, this year's edition of "March Madness" could have a distinctly Oregon flavor.

Freshmen standouts Kyle Singler from Medford, and Kevin Love from Lake Oswego continue to thrive on two of the top five teams in the country: Duke University and the University of California Los Angeles.

Andrew Theen caught up with the two freshmen.

Kyle Singler and Kevin Love are joined at the hip.  It's impossible to mention one without mentioning the other.

They faced each other twice in high school championship games and split those contests.  Both were named to every high school All-American list imaginable.

Every elite college basketball program wanted the two Oregon kids.  So success was expected.

Ben Howland: "I don't know that many places are going to have a Kyle Singler and a Kevin Love come along in the same class very often, much less a state of what, 3 million?"

That's UCLA  Head Coach Ben Howland.  Howland, himself a Lebanon Oregon native, aggressively recruited both players.  He raved about each, calling them two of the top five freshman in the nation.

Kevin Love is leading the Bruins in scoring and rebounding.  The six-foot-ten-inch, 270 pound forward tallied an astonishing 42 points and 39 rebounds aganist Oregon and Oregon State in recent weeks.

Howland says he scored by signing Love.

Andrew Theen: Did you expect him to play at this level immediately?

Ben Howland: "Yeah.  He's the best player in the country coming out of high school.  I'm not surprised.  This was the expectation."

Love's 21 rebound performance against Oregon State was the most by a freshman at UCLA since former Blazers star Bill Walton played there.  When told about the record, Love shrugged at its significance.

Kevin Love: "I'm not a really a guy about individual stats or anything like that.  From an individual standpoint me coming out here and playing well at Mac Court and playing here at Gill Coliseum playing well too, it was two big wins for us."

Despite his nonchalance, Love clearly enjoyed returning home and silencing his critics.

Love's dad Stan was one of the greatest players in Ducks history, and some expected the younger Love to follow in his footsteps, but instead he went south to LA.

In Eugene the fan reception was so hostile that University of Oregon officials ended up apologizing to Love and his family.  But not fans in Corvallis.

Tim Reynolds knows talent when he sees it - his brother Harold was a professional baseball player for over a decade.  Reynolds wanted Love's autograph for his son.  He refereed Love when he was a middle-schooler.

Tim Reynolds: "He could've scored probably 40-50 points a game, but he would pass the ball and rebound and get his teammates involved.  Which I thought was really impressive."

Kyle Singler also is getting rave reviews in Durham, North Carolina.  Singler is the third leading scorer for the second ranked Duke Blue Devils.

Kyle Singler: "It's just been a blast and just a terrific experience."

The soft-spoken Singler, like Love, comes from a family of gifted athletes.  At Oregon State, his father played quarterback  and his mother played basketball. And that's just his immediate family.

Before the season started, Duke head coach Mike  Krzyzewski said Singler was the most complete player on his squad — he praised him again after a hard-fought victory over North Carolina State last week.

Mike Krzyzewski: "Kyle's been terrific.  He's been a great player for us."

Singler said he and Love like being ambassadors for Oregon.

Kyle Singler: "It definitely makes us happy that there's something back in Oregon which people have now.  They have two college kids playing nationally on good teams, people can watch games and it's something new and exciting."

Singler said he hasn't talked to Love since he's been at Duke.  But he has thought about facing UCLA in the NCAA tournament.  He said he hopes that happens.

Kevin Love agrees.

Kevin Love: "You know I really hope the best for him.  I hope they win every game except if they get a chance to play us.  Kyle's doing a great job right now, and I think I am going to give him a call."

Love is starting to gain steam as a serious contender for National Player of the Year honors.  UCLA coach Ben Howland didn't exactly refute claims that his star freshman might be headed to the NBA soon.

Ben Howland: "All i can tell you is anybody who is watching him, that stock is just skyrocketing if there are any questions.  He'll be a long-time NBA player."

One thing is certain, if Duke and UCLA meet up once again, the story will be the rekindling of a friendly rivalry between two Oregon high school stars.

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