On September 27, 2001, a baby boy was born to Dennis and Alecia Love in Saint Louis
Missouri. His parents were UNC fans and they passed that on to their son. Love’s earliest UNC
memories were the 2005 basketball season when he was decked out in UNC gear for the
championship game vs. Illinois. Love does not remember much about that win for the Heels,
and unfortunately, the Love family did not take many pictures, but it was clear that this little
boy was a Tar Heel from the start.
Love was coached by his father as a toddler despite the fact that Dennis had never
played organized Basketball. Dennis realized when his son was in elementary school that he
was prepared to work hard for his goals when as a fifth grader, Love began to train on his own. He would wake up every morning and go for a jog before school, and after school, he would do push-ups and leg lifts to help him get stronger.
Caleb Love attended Christian Brothers high school and was coached by the father of, at
the time future NBA standout Jason Tatum, Justin Tatum. Tatum was a huge reason why Caleb started to get noticed as a sophomore and exploded as a junior, all the way to being a five-star recruit as a senior. Caleb was offered a scholarship to Duke but turned it down when Jeremy Roach committed. UNC and Roy Williams eventually came calling, and after his official visit to Chapel Hill, he decided to cancel his other planned visits. Caleb Love was going to be a Tar Heel.
Love didn’t exactly explode as a freshman for the Heels, to be precise he struggled.
Love often rushed his shots and just could not find a rhythm as he shot 31 percent from the
field on the year. Love averaged 10.5 points per game as a freshman, second on the team.
When Roy Williams retired, Love briefly considered transferring. Then Hubert Davis was
promoted to the head coach spot, and Love decided to stay. Love exploded right out of the gate with 22 points in 2 of the first 3 games. Love had some big games but also some bad ones early in the season with just 4 points vs UNC Ashville in a win, 8 points in a blowout loss to Kentucky, and 5 and 9 points in losses to Miami and Wake Forest respectively. However, he put together a consistent run as UNC solidified their NCAA tournament resume down the stretch. He scored consistently and also was solid on defense as UNC earned the number two seed in the ACC tournament.
The ACC tournament was uneventful for Love, but he played well against Marquette to
open the NCAA tournament, scoring a season-high 23 points. He would be shut down vs.
Baylor, but he exploded vs. UCLA, scoring 27 points in the second half alone to help UNC beat UCLA in the Sweet 16. Saint Peters for the most part held Love in check as he only scored 15, but he also had 4 assists to help the team past the Cinderella story of the tournament.
The Final Four in New Orleans, one of the biggest stages in sports, and the place where
Caleb Love helped the Heels to send Coach Mike Krzyzewski out with a loss in his final game.
You could write a book about this game, that’s how eventful it was, but one key play stands
out. Love dribbling up the court right side, milking the clock with 30 seconds to go, and UNC up 1 point over Duke. Love receives a screen from Leaky Black on Trevor Keels, Mark Williams, Duke’s big 7-1 center, stays back, protecting against a drive, and Love pulls up for three at the top of the key. Bang. UNC 78, Duke 74. UNC would win 81-77 over the hated Blue Devils.
UNC moved on to the title game but would lose in a thriller to Kansas. Love was
unspectacular in that game as he was 1-8 from three and could not find his stroke. If UNC wins
that game, Caleb Love likely does not come back to Chapel Hill. Nevertheless, Love still has the urge to win a national title and so he is back for his junior year with the Heels. The Basketball world better watch out, a hungry Caleb Love will not be denied his title.
The Four Corners Podcast: