Sophomore Kenny Love was chosen as Northwest Conference’s Men’s Basketball Player of the Year after a dramatic season. However, earning this award was not an easy task. Love helped the Pirates make it to the second round of the NCAA DIII Tournament before losing by a single point to Emory University. Due to starting the season out on the bench, Love had to prove his talents by earning his way into the starting lineup and into NWC recognition.
Before Love took the guard position, sophomore Kionte Brown was in the starting lineup. However, when Brown suffered a knee injury, Love had proven himself worthy of stepping into the starting guard role.
Head coach Matthew Logie said Love’s play on the defensive end of the floor was what held him back at the beginning of the year. However, Love took his coach’s instructions to heart and improved his defensive skills.
“[Love] grew a tremendous amount as the season progressed and got to the point where we just needed to have him on the floor all the time,” Logie said.
Many of Love’s teammates have noticed his determination to the sport and his willingness to grow. Love said that during the offseason, he would dedicate 10-15 hours a week to practicing basketball.
“Kenny is a really hard-working guy. He’s always in the gym, before and after practice,” junior George Valle said. “I think it’s really showed his improvement from his freshman year to sophomore year.”
On Jan. 2, Love started as guard at an away game against Willamette University. From then on, Love played in the starting lineup. On top of that, Love proved his value to the team and helped the Pirates progress to the DIII Tournament. Of the 22 games Love started in, the Pirates lost only two.
“I was getting used to coming off the bench,” Love said. “It was nice to start at the beginning of the game and feeling the flow of the game right from the beginning.”
Love helped lead the team to some of its most impressive victories. On Jan. 9 during a match against Linfield University, Love made eight shots from the field, three 3-pointers and seven free throws, resulting in a total of 29 points. The Pirates won that match—79-66.
“His confidence on a whole went up along with the playing time,” sophomore Gabriel Carter, Love’s roommate and teammate, said. “I’m glad he got the opportunity, because obviously he’s really good at it.”
By the end of the year, Love had made an impressive 42.6 percent of shots from the field, 45.1 percent of his three-pointers and 85.1 percent of his free throws. On Feb. 24, Love was announced as the 2015 NWC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year.
“It’s nice to know that throughout the school, you guys saw me as someone who had a really successful year,” Love said. “I just hope that moving forward I could keep up the work ethic and standard for myself as well as my teammates and other athletes here at school that people would be proud of.”
Love’s teammates and coaches are comforted in the fact that he is only a sophomore and has two more years still ahead of him. Love’s fellow athletes have also seen a sense of leadership in him that is expected to grow in the coming years.
“He does a lot of stuff for us statistically,” Carter said. “That type of leadership and work ethic and help that he gives the team doesn’t show up numerically, but it helps the team a lot more than people think.”
Love said one of the things that helped him improve was the team’s motto for the year—“Bigger Than Us”—and that his attitude and preparation for his sport helped his performance.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m starting or not,” Love said. “Just being able to bring whatever I could, whether it be from a vocal leadership standpoint or being able to lead from example. Staying focused, staying ready and staying with a positive attitude is probably one of the most important things.”
Love will continue playing basketball next season and hopes to play outside of college as well.
“The future is really bright for Kenny,” Logie said. “I think he’s very excited about the challenge in front of him in terms of continuing to take our program to new heights.”