UNC MBB Player Preview: Caleb Love

By Blair Tuggle @BlairTuggle

Caleb Love
Junior
6ft 4 – 200lbs

St. Louis, Missouri
Major: Exercise and Sport Science in Sports Administration Program

Caleb Love’s announcement to return to UNC for his junior year helped cement all of the high hopes and projections for another basketball season extending well into March, and maybe even an April game or two. Following Armando and Leaky, Caleb Love is the shooting powerhouse that will set the tone for the incoming freshman class.

As of last season, the Tar Heel team is undefeated (15-0) when Love puts up at least 20 points. Love is exactly the energy needed throughout the game, and the leader to count on when the game is on the line. This was much proven during Duke’s 81-77 defeat in the Final Four when Caleb Love took what is better known as “the shot” with 26 seconds to go: extending the lead from 75-74 to a four-point advantage.

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Caleb Love’s Numbers as a Tar Heel:

SEASONPOINTSASSISTSREBOUNDS3PT%
2020/21305104750.266
2021/226211391330.36
TOTAL9262432080.329
Statistics up to date as of 2nd Sep (source: basketball.real.gm)

Caleb Love’s Best Game as a Tar Heel:

The shot wasn’t all that he had to offer during his time in the tournament, Love also had himself a game against the UCLA Bruins to punch the Heels a ticket to the Elite 8. Following a Baylor game where Love was fouled out before OT with the Bears (and not to mention contributing five points before doing so), his performance against UCLA was a complete 180. In that game, Love scored a game-high of 30 points: 27 of those came during the second half, and six of them came with 1:06 left in the contest. The key? Switching out his shoes.

The performance that Love put on for those next twenty minutes was cause enough to put those basketball shoes into retirement. The electricity that Caleb Love brought to the court during the Sweet Sixteen brought back emotions that can only be evoked by watching true Carolina Basketball on display.  While the game came with a few heart attacks and a lot of back and forth, Love made it clear that this team was meant to be there―not by luck, but by pure want. The ability to completely turn the game around showed us that this team was a National Championship contender.

POINTSREBOUNDSASSISTSFG3PT
303411-246-13
Caleb Love’s statistics from UNC vs UCLA on March 26th, 2022 (source: ESPN)

Caleb Love’s Player Comparison:

Continuing with the tournament hero narrative, one name, in particular, comes to mind: Marcus Paige. I know equating that 2015-16 team to the 2021-22 team helps to bring us that much closer to a redemption story for the ages, but the similarities are there in their own ways. When I think of that 2016 National Championship runner-up team, one particular scene runs through my mind: The Shot. The Shot that was “The Shot” before Caleb Love even had an idea of where he was going to be playing college basketball.  The “double-clutch, one-footed, off-balance, 25-foot away three-pointer” shot created that sense of confidence that Caleb Love was able to emulate during his version of “The Shot” during the Final Four game against Duke. While each shot had its different outcome, and one can argue about the stakes of each shot, both grabbed the attention of basketball fans and are cemented into NCAA history.

Aside from being memorable tournament players, Marcus Paige and Caleb Love share a similar stat line:

NAMEPPG3PT%RPGAPG
MARCUS PAIGE (THROUGH FOUR SEASONS)13.137.52.84.3
CALEB LOVE (THROUGH TWO SEASONS)13.632.93.13.6
Statistics up to date as of 2nd Sep (source: Sports Reference)

Caleb Love’s Future:

Fortunately enough, we get to see Love get closer to achieving Paige’s four years at UNC since declaring a return for his junior year. However, with the freshman to sophomore year jump, one can’t help but have projections in mind for his junior season―and beyond. Multiple mock drafts have Caleb Love going late in the first round or even early in the second round.  His 6’9 wingspan puts him at a considerably good size for an NBA guard, and his ability to operate on the defensive end of the court helps his case as well. Love clearly has the basketball IQ to thrive in an NBA setting, however, this next season his consistency and playmaking abilities will be put to the test. Love is already showing promising improvement, being selected as the 2022 Formula MVP―an honor earned at Damian Lillard’s exclusive Formula Zero Camp. Love was among the forty high school and college level players selected for the skills camp.

Blue/White Scrimmage:

In the Blue/White scrimmage, Love put up an impressive 22pts while going 40% from the three. Paired with Trimble’s 21pts on the Blue team, the chemistry between these two is something to look forward to in the upcoming season.

Blue/White Scrimmage Stats for Caleb Love:

POINTSREBOUNDSASSISTSFG3PT%
22428/2040
Statistics from UNC Filmz (source: instagram.com/uncfilmz)

Who is excited to see Caleb Love put on the Tar Heel jersey for another season?

Follow Blair Tuggle on Twitter @BlairTuggle and keep up-to date with her throughout the 2021-22 basketball season reporting on all things UNC Basketball.

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