It’s taken a lot of hard work for Caleb Love to get to where he was on Monday night, playing a starring role as North Carolina snapped its two-game conference losing streak with a home win over Virginia Tech.
Caleb scored 22 points in the win over the Hokies, uncannily the sixth time this season he’s posted that exact number of points, which stands as a season-high and is three off the sophomore’s career-best. He also contributed five assists, a steal and two rebounds in the win.
The 22-point performance was a huge bounce back for Caleb, whose shot wasn’t falling in losses to Miami and Wake Forest last week.
Love’s success on Monday came as a result of a renewed aggressiveness. Rather than settle for jumpers, Caleb drove to the basket, and as a result he went to the free throw line repeatedly, where he racked up nine of his 22 points. So despite his mid-range shot still not falling at the clip he’s accustomed to (5-of-14 Monday, well off his 40.8 percent clip from inside the arc this season), Caleb was able to contribute in a big way.
Now 19 games into his sophomore season, the 6’4” guard is averaging 14.9 points (16th in the ACC), 3.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. And despite his recent shooting slump, he’s still blowing away his shooting numbers from last season, especially from deep, where Caleb is knocking down treys at a 41.6 percent clip, which ranks Top 10 in the ACC. It’s a drastic jump from his 26.6 percent mark from three-point range as a freshman. Likewise, his 40.8 percent from inside the arc is up from last season’s 34.8 percent.
According to Caleb, he placed an emphasis in his offseason training regimen on shooting and finishing, and he’s seen it pay off big time.
“Working all summer,” he said. “Working on my game, working on what I didn’t do well and then tighten up what I did do well, and just developing my game.”
Caleb came to UNC as a five-star recruit and the second-ranked point guard in his class according to 247Sports, . The 2020 Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Missouri, he was one of the most sought-after prospects from the St. Louis area and was selected to play in the 2020 McDonald’s All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic, Iverson Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit.
However, it wasn’t always like that for Love, who grew up playing football but pivoted toward basketball throughout his high school years.
“Four years ago, I wasn’t highly recruited at all; I wasn’t ranked,” Love said. “That’s what pretty much pushed me. My parents were just always put in my head to just stay in the gym, so that’s all I did. That was the standard, being in the gym, being humble. As my stock grew, I just kept working and staying the course. That’s what works.”
These were all the boxes an incoming recruit must check if they hope to gain any significant interest with a Division 1 program. As he worked hard to improve his game through high school, Love spent his summers playing for Bradley Beal Elite and was able to gain much needed exposure through nationally recognized tournaments within the AAU circuit.
Now, with the Tar Heels geared up for another NCAA tournament run after losing in the first round last year, Caleb is ready to put his name on the NBA map as he continues to pursue his dream of making it to the NBA.