- Tom Archdeacon columnist
Whether it’s his name or his game, 6-foot-9, 265-pound Loudon Love has become a double double.
Just before he got to Wright State from Geneva, Illinois, he changed his last name from Vollbrecht to Love.
That’s the maiden name of Laura, his mom. It’s also the name of his grandpa, who became a father figure and supporter of Loudon when his parents split up and Laura and her then 10-year-old son moved from Vermont back to Illinois.
“When my parents divorced I didn’t see my dad a lot,” Love said. “My mom really supported me and my grandpa did, too, and I just wanted to honor them. I wanted to carry that name on.”
With a shrug and a laugh, he added: “And I guess it does roll off the tongue easier than Vollbrecht or whatever else — like Voldemort — that people threw out there.”
He said some people from the past didn’t know he’d changed his name. One was Cole Gentry, who transferred to WSU from South Dakota State in the middle of last season and is from St. Charles, Illinois, right next to Geneva. His school and Loudon’s play each other.
“When Cole first got here, he kept calling me Vollbrecht,” Love said. “And people here only knew me as Love. They didn’t know I’d changed my name.
“Actually my middle name was Love. All of us kids had Love as a middle name.”
So when he went through the legalities of it, he just moved Love from his middle name to his last. He said he has no middle name now, though technically he could be Loudon Love Love.
Name aside, there’s no question on his game, which quite often this season has ended up a double-double affair.
Last weekend in the Raiders’ first conference road trip of the season, the redshirt freshman center had 13 points and 14 rebounds in a victory at Detroit Mercy on Friday night. Then Sunday afternoon he had the best game of his budding college career.
He scored 25 points and pulled down 17 rebounds in a victory at Oakland. He blocked five shots, played a whopping 37 minutes and, in the most amazing stat from his line in the box score, he went 7-for-7 at the free-throw line.
That two-game output has won him Horizon League freshman of the week honors. It’s the third time he’s been so honored this season.
He’s now had double-doubles in six games — including 16 points and 12 rebounds in an upset of No. 22 Georgia Tech — and leads the Horizon League in rebounds with nine per game.
He leads Wright State in field-goal percentage (51.4) and blocked shots and is third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points.
He’s becoming a shining light in what has been a bright start to the season for the Raiders. Going into tonight’s road game with HL co-leader Northern Kentucky, the Raiders are 12-5 and 4-0 in conference play.
The 11-5 Norse feature 6-foot-7, 250-pound center Drew McDonald who was picked as the HL preseason player of the year. While WSU’s 6-10 Parker Ernsthausen will draw much of the defensive assignment with McDonald, Love will handle some of it, too.
And it won’t be the first time he’s been paired against a heralded big man inside.
Against Georgia Tech he was guarded by 6-10 ACC center Ben Lammers, who is on the watch list for the John Wooden National Player of the Year.
Lammers couldn’t defend Love, who out-scored him — on 7-for-9 shooting from the floor — and out-rebounded him.
As WSU coach Scott Nagy put it: “That game, Loudon was the man.”
‘He cares deeply’
Although he’s played in just 17 college games, Love has been at Wright State for a year and a half.
After tearing the ACL and meniscus in his left knee on the last play of his senior football season — an offensive tackle and defensive end, he had been offered scholarships by schools like Illinois, Bowling Green and Western Illinois — he missed his senior basketball season and his weight eventually soared to 318 pounds.
Schools like Northern Kentucky, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, Maryland-Baltimore County and UMass-Lowell who had offered basketball scholarships cooled on him. South Dakota State, where Nagy was the head coach two years ago, did not.
And when Nagy took over the WSU job last season, Love followed.
But he said he soon realized: “It wasn’t really time for me to start my college career.”
He needed to fully heal from knee surgery and also to drop weight.
Under the guidance of Cole Pittsford, WSU’s director of sports performance, he began intensified workouts while also changing his diet. He said his mom and older sister, Autumn, both of whom are health conscious, guided him on the home front.
He shed some 50 pounds, but the number of which he’s most proud is his body fat index.
“I went from 23 percent to like 13.5 percent,” he said.
His fitness never showed more than last Sunday.
“There aren’t many 275-pound guys who can play 37 minutes in a game,” Nagy said.
The next goal is to get the unselfish Love to become a little more “me first” on offense.
“The thing about Loudon is that he cares deeply,” Nagy said. “He’s a great kid. He has a good personality and he’s a great teammate.
“He’s just not a selfish guy by nature. He doesn’t think he needs to score, but we need him to be more selfish. When he catches the ball in there, we need him to try to dunk and put people through the rim.”
Strides at the line
While Love already has made a splash for the Raiders as their top rebounder and third-leading scorer, he has struggled at the free-throw line.
He’s last on the team, making 46.2 percent of his charity tosses (30 of 65). And yet that’s improved considerably from a month ago when he was shooting 30.3 percent.
Sunday’s 7-for-7 effort was his most triumphant moment at the stripe.
The flip side has been 1 for 7 against Gardner Webb, 2 for 7 versus Jacksonville and 2 for 6 at Missouri State.
“He and Coach Chambliss have been working hard on his free throws,” Nagy said. “I don’t even talk to him about them. He just needs to hear one voice and Sharif is the one who works with him.”
Love said he’s been shooting 150, sometimes 200, extra free throws a day. As he improves, maybe you won’t hear the patronizing cheers that sometimes go up in the Nutter Center when he does make a free throw.
“I think it’s funny and as long as we win I never get mad,” he said. “But when I start making them regularly, they better keep cheering like that.”
He seems well on his way to becoming a fan favorite here and with that you wonder if he’ll get even more of an embrace with a catchy moniker. Right now his teammates still use his old high school nickname: “Big Lou.”
But he now seems to have a last name that lends itself some kind of tag:
The Love Machine?
Whole Lotta Love?
“I’ll leave that up to other people,” he laughed. “Right now I’m just trying to make a name for myself out there on the court.”
And he’s doing just that.
Double Love is now double digits.