Maliik Love was going to wait around until the spring to see if he could pool together more college basketball scholarship offers.
So far, the two who had stepped forward to extend the honor were Cal Poly and Air Force, but after his upcoming senior season, there could have been more suitors for the 20-point-per-game, 6-foot-2 combo guard.
“That was the initial plan,” Love said, “but when I saw the team and how everything was going there, it really changed my mind. I’m really believing in the program.”
After attending Cal Poly’s Mott Madness tipoff event last Friday, seeing first-year Mustangs coach Joe Callero in action firsthand and interacting with the current players on the team, the San Diego prep standout made a verbal commitment to come to San Luis Obispo next season.
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Cal Poly hosted Love on an official visit during Mott Madness, an exhibition for the men’s and women’s team that included a 3-point shootout and slam-dunk contest.
After seeing Mustangs guard Shawn Lewis leap over three cheerleaders to run away with the dunk contest, Love made a verbal commitment to Cal Poly that will not be official until he signs a National Letter of Intent.
The early signing period for basketball starts Nov. 11, and Love said he will sign then.
NCAA bylaws prevent Callero from commenting on unsigned recruits, but he did confirm the Mustangs were recruiting Love. Love said Callero had been recruiting him the previous two seasons as well, when the Cal Poly coach was at his former school, Seattle University.
In the past three seasons, Callero had the kind of success with the Division II Redhawks that the school hadn’t seen since the 1960s. Now, he’s charged with turning around a program that went winless at home in the Big West Conference last season.
“I looked online about what coach Callero had done at Seattle University,” Love said. “He turned the whole program around. I’m believing in him to turn this one around, too.”
Tom Tarantino, the varsity boys basketball coach at The Bishop’s School in San Diego, said Love also received recruiting attention from San Diego, San Diego State, Long Beach State, UC Riverside, Southern Methodist, Lehigh and “every single Ivy League school.”
“He’s very similar to Jeremy Pargo at Gonzaga, a 6-4 guard that’s really explosive, goes by people and dunks on them,” said Tarantino, who also likened Love to LeBron James and former UCLA guard Russell Westbrook.
“He’s ripped like a body builder.”
Love, a 6-foot-2, 196-pound guard, will turn 17 during his senior season and averaged 20.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game this past year, according to MaxPreps.com, for a Bishop’s team that went 25-5 and won the CIF-San Diego Section Division IV title.
On his personal Web site, Love has his grade-point average listed as 3.4.
“He’s excited about the Cal Poly school community,” Tarantino said. “We’re a strong academic school and he’s a good student. I think coach Callero has to recruit student athletes. He can’t just go get players because that school, they don’t fake their way through it, which is good and healthy.”
Callero will be hosting a free coaches clinic and appearing for a social at Firestone Grill in downtown San Luis Obispo on Saturday. The clinic, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., is free to the public and will be followed by an open practice at Mott Gym.
Over the summer, Callero said the program would not be signing a player in the early period unless it was someone who could be a major contributor.
“He’d have to grow into that,” Tarantino said. “He’ll be a year or two away from that, but I think that coach Callero projects into his career and thinks he could be that kind of player,” in the Big West Conference.
“His upside is tremendous,” Tarantino added. “I don’t think he’s done improving. And he’s a candidate to be player of the year in San Diego. I think he’s at 800 or so points going into his senior year, and he’s going to be deep into a thousand-points scorer in his career.”