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Kevin Love

Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

Wolves' Love reaches out to kids at St. Jude's

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD
  • Star Tribune
  • March 28, 2012 - 12:26 AM

MEMPHIS, TENN. - Tuesday night's game had an added meaning for Wolves forward Kevin Love.

It was Hoops for St. Jude night at Fed- ExForum, the home of the Memphis Grizzlies. It is a program in which several NBA players and coaches participate. And it is designed to raise awareness and funds for the Memphis-based St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which treats children battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Love, who visited the hospital for the first time as a rookie, became a founding ambassador for the program. Love has donated time, money and memorabilia to the cause. He also has made some lifelong friends.

His relationship with St. Jude began when he met Dylan Witschen, a boy from Minnesota who was being treated at St. Jude. Later that season, Love got to know Dylan and his family, inviting them to a Wolves game. Witschen died June 8, 2010. But Love's connection to St. Jude -- and to the Witschen family -- remains strong. Indeed, Love said at Tuesday's pregame shoot that he had exchanged e-mails with the family as recently as Monday night.

"I still keep his little keychain, with No. 7 and his face on it, in my locker," Love said. "His parents always come to the games. It's great to stay in contact with them, to know Dylan is watching our team and watching over us. He's still a part of my life."

Many NBA players do a number of things for the community, and Love is no exception. He runs a coat donation program in the Twin Cities as well as maintaining his connection with St. Jude. Before Tuesday's game Love met a number of children and their families, signed autographs and posed for pictures.

"You meet them before the game, take some pictures and say hello," Love said. "There are a lot of people in this league who are involved in this, who do the same thing when they stop through Memphis. They find a way to get to the hospital, or have kids come to the game."

Love said the benefits of getting involved go both ways.

"This is more than just a game of basketball," he said. "It's bigger than that. People look up to us, and St. Jude is just one way of giving back. I always say -- and I believe it to the fullest -- that if all I'm remembered for is as a basketball player at the end of my career, then I haven't done my job. This is just another way to make a mark."

Ridnour plays hurt

Luke Ridnour played his second game despite a groin injury sustained at the end of the Wolves' game in Oklahoma City last week. He'd like more rest, but the schedule -- and the injury to J.J. Barea -- won't allow that.

"It's all right," Ridnour said. "It's that time of year. You just get banged up a little bit. It has been a little tougher because you don't have the two, three days in between that you might get. It's a lot of games quick. You just have to find a way to get through it."

The key, Ridnour said, is doing what he can to make sure the injury is not getting worse. That means a lot of treatment and a careful warmup process.

"You just pray that you feel good," he said.

Hollins on Adelman

When asked whether Love deserved MVP attention Tuesday, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins instead chose to talk about Wolves coach Rick Adelman.

"I'd vote more for Rick Adelman as coach of the year than I would for Kevin Love as MVP," he said. "I think the style they've done, since Rick has been there, is terrific."

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