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Love unveils a new shot

Times Staff Writer

Among the splendid skills UCLA freshman Kevin Love demonstrated in the fifth-ranked Bruins’ sweep of Stanford and California was a classic and often under-used jump hook shot.

Love, who had 34 points and 21 rebounds on the trip while playing against Stanford’s 7-foot twins Brook and Robin Lopez and California’s 6-11 DeVon Hardin and 6-10 Ryan Anderson, said he and assistant coach Donny Daniels had done extra work in practice on the shot.

“I had used it this season,” Love said, “but I didn’t necessarily get the same elevation on it that I’d need. Against the Pac-10 with a lot of big guys in there, I needed to shoot it higher. People say I can’t score over bigger defenders. I did that this weekend. I’ve got to keep doing it.”

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Daniels said he and Coach Ben Howland talked to Love about developing the hook shot. The message, Daniels said, was simple: “We told him to trust his skill level. He knows how high that level is.”

Love, listed as 6-10 and clearly smaller than the Lopezes, Hardin and Anderson, had outscored Hardin and Anderson, 13-3, in the first half of UCLA’s 70-58 win over the Bears. Besides extra height, Hardin, a senior, and Anderson, a sophomore, have five years of experience over Love.

“He’s as poised and tough a freshman as I’ve seen in this league,” California Coach Ben Braun said. “I really think he’s a special player. But I don’t look at him as a freshman. He looks like an upperclassman. He’s very businesslike on the floor.”

Daniels said the fun of working with Love was that the freshman comes with built-to-last fundamentals. “It’s an absolute joy,” Daniels said, “because he wants to get better.”

As far as improving Love’s hook, Daniels said, “We needed him to get deeper post catches and then work on the nuances of setting himself up. We also wanted him not spinning the ball when he shoots it. That helps him get height on the shot.”

Also, Daniels said, against Stanford and Cal, Love began to jump higher with the shot. “He was extending his arm,” Daniels said. “He wasn’t flipping the ball, he was truly shooting it.”

Sophomore forward James Keefe is still adjusting his mood to playing basketball now instead of next season.

Keefe, a former All-American at Santa Margarita High, was happily into spending this season rehabilitating his surgically repaired left shoulder and looking forward to playing three more seasons for the Bruins. Keefe announced in December that he would be a redshirt this season because of the shoulder surgery he had in August.

But when Michael Roll went out for the second time this season because of a foot injury, Howland called Keefe back. He played eight minutes over the weekend and then talked about the tug-of-war in his head.

“You’ve got to put the team first, obviously,” Keefe said. “The team needs me, I came back. I’m not sure what’s best for me. I can’t think about that.”

Keefe said Howland spoke to him and his parents twice after Roll was injured at practice Dec. 31. At first, Keefe said, Howland told him to wait for a final diagnosis.

“I called our trainer [Monday] night,” Keefe said. “She said it was pretty bad. The next day I talked to coach and we decided to wait for the MRI [on Wednesday] before making it official.”

It is Keefe’s hope that he has returned for half a season so that UCLA can better its performance of making the Final Four two years in a row but winning no titles.

“That’s why coming back is not a bad thing,” Keefe said. “Because I really feel like we have a great team here. If we do as well as we hope we can, it would be very special.”

diane.pucin@latimes.com


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