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Like Unseld, Love gives team a creative outlet

UCLA REPORT

March 24, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

Stan Love appreciated Wes Unseld's kindness and his outlet passes in equal measure, so when Stan's second son was born 19 years ago, Kevin Love received the middle name Wesley. It's not an exact replica -- Unseld's full first name is Westley -- but the intention by Stan was to honor his former Baltimore Bullets teammate.

"Wes Unseld was a kind person and a great basketball player," Stan Love said. "I used to call him a citizen of the world. When Kevin was about to be born I just wanted to pay tribute to Wes. I didn't plan for Kevin to throw those outlet passes like Wes."

Unseld said he didn't see Love's performance Saturday, when the 6-foot-10 freshman had 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots in top-seeded UCLA's come-from-behind 51-49 win over Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA West Regional, but he has watched the Pacific 10 Conference player of the year on a few occasions.

"He's very good," Unseld said. "I like what I see."

Maybe Unseld can see the Bruins (33-3) play 12th-seeded Western Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Thursday about 6:40 p.m. in Phoenix. Third-seeded Xavier and seventh-seeded West Virginia play in the first West semifinal at 4:10 p.m.

Along with former UCLA star center Bill Walton, Unseld, who played college ball at Louisville, is considered one of the best-passing big men in basketball history. As an undersized 6-7 center he led the Washington Bullets to an NBA championship in 1978 and, during his rookie year in 1968-69, he was league most valuable player with the Baltimore Bullets.

Unseld was respected by teammates and opponents alike for his ability to throw outlet passes. On Sunday he said it wasn't until a year ago he even knew Stan had given Kevin the middle name Wesley.

"Passing skill is something you learn," Unseld said. "It's not something you're born with. Kevin's had a good teacher in his dad. Stan was a very good player, but he was just a space cadet. Stan was completely different from me, but I loved throwing passes to him so he could score. If Stan scored you could keep him out of trouble."

Unseld said he learned to pass because he had to. "Big men, in my day, just to be on the team you had to pass, you had to defend, you had to shoot. I don't think many people out there now know how to teach big men how to play. Kevin knows how to play. I love his all-around game."

While it might not be enough to appease angry Texas A&M fans who are convinced Josh Shipp fouled guard Donald Sloan with four seconds left in Saturday's game, the final score of UCLA's win over the Aggies has been changed from 53-49 to 51-49 by the NCAA.

With the Bruins leading, 51-49, Shipp was credited with a block when he knocked away Sloan's shot. UCLA's Russell Westbrook picked up the ball and dunked to end the game. It appeared an official waved off the dunk, but the final score was posted as 53-49 and Westbrook was credited with the basket in the final box score.

Hank Nichols, the NCAA's national coordinator of men's basketball officiating, said in a statement Sunday: "As officials were leaving the court, they waved off the basket, ruling the ball was still in Westbrook's hands when the clock expired. Amidst the activity courtside, there was a misinterpretation of the signal. But the ruling on the court was that the basket should not have counted, making the final score 51-49, not 53-49."

Texas A&M spokesman Colin Killian said Aggies coaches were appreciative that the NCAA changed the final score. "We didn't think [Westbrook's basket] was good at the time," Killian said Sunday. "It doesn't change the outcome of the game, but we're pleased the NCAA was concerned about the integrity of the call and went the extra mile."

UCLA spokesman Marc Dellins said: "As the statement from the NCAA said, there was a lot happening at the end of the game and the referee's signal was misinterpreted at the scoring table. The score should reflect the ruling on the court. Fortunately, the change of score does not affect the outcome of the game."

All four top-seeded teams have advanced to the Sweet 16. North Carolina is 1-0 against other regional semifinalists (a win over Davidson); Kansas is 1-1 (split with Texas), Memphis 0-1 (lost to Tennessee) and the Bruins 7-1. UCLA beat Stanford three times, Washington State twice, Davidson and Michigan State. The loss was to Texas.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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