by: Vern Uyetake,

To virtually no one's surprise, Lake Oswego basketball star Kevin Love has decided to stay relatively close to home and attend UCLA next year rather than move cross-country and play for the University of North Carolina.

Love made his announcement on Tuesday in Las Vegas, in between games at the Reebok Big Time, one of the top AAU basketball tournaments in the nation.

Several weeks ago, Love narrowed his choice of colleges to UCLA and North Carolina, after eliminating Duke from consideration. Although he had been leaning toward UCLA for some time, North Carolina seemed to be gaining ground after Love made an unofficial visit there in May.

Love could not be reached for comment, but he told reporters in Las Vegas that UCLA was the right fit for him. He said he considered it an honor to follow in the footsteps of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor when he played at UCLA) and Bill Walton. Being at UCLA and being in the Pac-10 also will give his family and friends more chances to see him play in college.

Love, who will be a senior at LOHS this school year, initially planned to wait until after school started in September before making his announcement on where he will play in 2007-08. But the media attention surrounding his decision had gotten to the point where Love was unable to carry on a normal life.

However, in a full-page article that appeared in Sports Illustrated last week, Love told reporter Seth Davis, 'I'm enjoying the recruitment. You only go around once, so I'm going to love it while I can.'

That article listed Love, a 6-foot-9 center, as the top college prospect in the nation for the class of 2007. Some recruiting Web sites had ranked Love as low as No. 6 in his class, but many coaches and scouts changed their assessment of Love after seeing him play this summer.

Leading up to the Las Vegas tournament, Love had participated in four other well-known camps or tournaments around the nation and he was named the MVP at three of those events.

'It's been a real joy to watch him improve,' father Stan Love said about his son earlier this week.

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