The game of basketball looks like it comes easy to Marcus LoVett, Jr. It's getting out of the gym after a game that can be a problem for the Providence High point guard.
The 15-year old freshman phenom carries a lot of hype with him and commands attention in any gym he's playing in for the Pioneers.
"It takes you five minutes to get him out of the gym because people are asking him for an autograph, a picture or whatever it may be," first-year Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville said.
A simple Google search of Marcus LoVett Jr. yields about 146,000 results, including articles and scouting reports on the highly touted national recruit by virtually any site that covers high school basketball.
"He never seems to be affected by all the attention," Baskerville said. "He is a pleasure to coach and that's what you ask for, a kid who can handle all that. That's a lot of pressure on a freshman and he is doing so well."
"I just think [the attention is] just something that comes with it and all the hard work I've been putting in, but I don't even try to worry about that," LoVett said. "I just try to do what I do on the court."
It's what LoVett's done on the floor that's garnered him all the attention. His area-high average of 31.7 points a game was best in the nation among freshmen according to MaxPreps.com, as he poured in 1,035 points this season and put up 35.8 points a game in the playoffs.
He never scored fewer than 20 points this season, hitting the 40-point mark six times — twice in the postseason — including a season-high 57-point performance in a win over St. Joseph.
"There's only a handful of players that can do the things he did in a year," Baskerville said of LoVett, who also averaged 4.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.1 steals a game in the regular season. "You look what he did this year, there's only two freshmen in the nation this year alone to score over 1,000 points."
It was LoVett's phenomenal freshman campaign that led him to be voted the 2012 All-Area Boys' Basketball Player of the Year by the sportswriters and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun and Pasadena Sun.
Basketball runs in the LoVett family, as Marcus' dad, Marcus LoVett Sr., was a standout player for an Oklahoma City University team that won the 1996 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship and says he went on to try out for a number of NBA teams without making the cut. Today, he's a trainer and player developer.
"My dad played [basketball], so of course you're going to look up to your dad and try to do everything he does," LoVett said. "He's the one who gave [basketball] to me. …He didn't go [to the NBA] so he is going to try to get me there."
Simply cracking an NBA lineup won't be enough for LoVett, who said he simply wants to be "the best player in the world."
For some, LoVett sounds too good to be true. That was how Holy Martyrs Coach Koko Kaprielian felt before he saw him.
"I did not believe them when they told me he is an amazing player and unstoppable," Kaprielian said. "I thought, 'He's a freshman, how good can he be?'"
Kaprielian soon learned as he faced the Pioneers three times this year, including the CIF Southern Section Division V-A championship game.
"I have been coaching for a long time, but I have never seen anything like Marcus — he was amazing," Kaprielian said. "He's got a complete game. He's not only a good shooter, he goes to the basket very strong and has that bump-and-hit shot.
"He is only 15 and to have a balance, control and ball handling like that — he's a complete package."
LoVett went on to earn Liberty League and CIF Southern Section Division V-A Player of the Year honors in his debut season. He also led the Pioneers alongside senior captain Patrick Gonzalez to a 26-6 record, a Liberty League title with a perfect 10-0 league mark and the Division V-A title game a year after the team finished fourth in league and was dispatched in the first round of the playoffs.
There's a lot more than LoVett's performance on the floor in games that's impressive, though.
Baskerville and Providence sophomore guard Jonathan Ly rave about LoVett's work ethic.
In the offseason LoVett says he's relaxing, practicing just two hours a day, but during the season he puts in "about four hours or so," as he works out after team practices.
Baskerville said LoVett puts in NBA-player type workouts, taking 2,000 to 3,000 shots a day outside of team practice.
"I have never seen anyone work as hard as [LoVett]," Ly said. "His workouts are insane. His dad works out with him at home and really helps push him."
All the work left LoVett in such good shape that Baskerville could play his freshman as much as he wanted or needed to. More often than not that meant LoVett was playing the entire game.
"He's just a blue-collar worker," Baskerville said. "He comes to practice and works hard, takes his shots, goes home and works hard. He just works hard, man. He is just a throw-back player. …A lot of guys take plays off, he doesn't take plays off."
One thing Baskerville, Ly and Kaprielian can all agree on is LoVett's modesty.
"I was very impressed with Marcus that he never [showboated]," Kaprielian said. "He did not open his mouth, he just comes out and plays his game. I respect that.
"I was amazed that he was that good and not [showing people up]. Marcus is very talented, I have never seen a point guard like him and his attitude is amazing."
Perhaps the most impressive thing about LoVett is his ability and desire to take over late in games.
Providence fell just short of a CIF title this year, as it fell to Kaprielian's squad in overtime, 65-62, despite beating the Armens the previous two times they met.
LoVett finished with a game-high 38 points, nine rebounds and four steals and kept hope alive for the Pioneers the entire game. He led his team on a wild fourth-quarter comeback to force an extra frame, racked up nine points in the final minute and 45 seconds of overtime and came up with a last-second steal that nearly forced a second extra session.
"He is one of the most clutch players I've ever seen," Baskerville said. "Late in the game when he's got the ball in his hands you just trust he is going to do something good. …He did not miss free throws in the fourth quarter."
It's the final minutes of a tight game — when all eyes are on him — that LoVett loves and thrives in most.
"I like those situations because that's when I'm going the hardest," LoVett said. "It just takes me back to the training mode of what got me there. I just try to be very, very concentrated when it comes to serious points of the game — just try to get it done."