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Karl Towns Jr.

Karl Towns photo courtesy MSG

Karl Towns photo courtesy MSG

By LARRY VAUGHT

While looking back through some information on the Nike Hoop Summit, I came across this evaluation of the game’s most undervalued players by Jamie Cooper of dimemag.com.

Kentucky signee Karl Towns Jr., the 7-foot player from New Jersey who played on the World team for the second straight year, was one of the players mentioned. Here’s what Cooper wrote before the game:

“ESPN has him ranked ninth, while DraftExpress  has him at number six, but the growing perception seems to be that Towns could potentially end up as a top-three lottery pick next summer. In fact, by the second practice session this week, one scout was already half-joking that the top two prospects were actually on the World Select Team (Towns and UK signee Trey Lyles) and not, in fact, hailing from the Windy City. I’m not completely sold on Lyles just yet, partially because I just haven’t seen enough of him, but Towns, on the other hand, is already showing signs of the type of physical maturity that will ultimately set him apart from someone like Okafor, who has a much less impressive physique.

“Beyond that, Towns is arguably the most versatile player of the bunch. He has solid footwork and a soft touch around the rim (with plenty of room for improvement), unlimited range on his jump shot, and great rebounding and shotblocking instincts. Don’t be surprised if he ends up as the No. 1 pick (in the NBA draft) next summer (2015).”

PORTLAND — Breaking open a 61-all tie heading into the fourth quarter, the USA outscored the World team 23-11 in the final 10 minutes of the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit game for an 84-73 victory. The USA now holds a 12-5 record in the annual event.

Leading the way for the USA was two-time USA Basketball gold medalist and Duke-bound Justise Winslow, who shot 7-of-15 from the field and finished the night with 16 points and six rebounds. Winslow’s future Blue Devil teammates, also multi-gold medalists with USA Basketball, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones scored 14 and 13 points, respectively; and Kansas signee Kelly Oubre notched 14 points, five rebounds and three steals.

Kentucky signee Trey Lyles, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, had 9 points and 11 rebounds for the World team. He was 3-for-11 from the field and 3-for-5 at the foul line in 25 minutes. He also had one steal and two turnovers.

Teammate Karl Towns Jr. added 6 points and 8 rebounds along with 2 blocked shots in 17 minutes.

“We came out strong and we just couldn’t finish out today. Like coach said, everything goes to the USA team today. They had a great strategy, they stuck by it and they kept playing it out through four quarters,” Towns said. “We did a great job this week. We had great practices. Everything led up great to this day, we just had to execute and we didn’t execute for four quarters.

“We did a great job. I’m proud of everyone here I met. I’m happy to have made the friends I made this week and I can’t thank Coach Roy enough for helping us gel together and make this week even more memorable.”

Towns, who also played in the game last year, won’t forget the outcome even when he gets to Kentucky.

“For me personally, right now the USA team has the bragging rights and we’re just trying to get it back for next year, especially we’re going to have to step on the court and it’s going to be different. It’s not going to be Nike, it’s going to be college and this counts for everything, but right now, it means a lot that they have the bragging rights and the W today. It’s going to motivate me even more to try and beat them,” Towns said.

Kentucky bound center, Karl Towns Jr., has been named Gatorade’s National Player of the Year for the 2013-14 season. He will be playing in Nike Hoop Summit Saturday night.

By RENE CORNETTE (@Rene81)

Karl Towns is a 7 foot 1 center in the Class of 2014. He committed to Kentucky early in December, 2012 becoming the first in the class to do so. He averaged 21.3 points and 14.3 rebounds per game for the Saint Joseph Falcons during the 2012-13 season. He will be working towards his third straight state championship there this year as well. He’s played on the Dominican Republic team for both John Calipari and Orlando Antigua. He has a work ethic second to none, passing skills that are fit for a top point guard and a sweet stroke from the arc. He is arguable the most gifted all around player in the 2014 class and he chose Kentucky over Duke. That’s just one side of, Karl Towns, though. The basketball side. The athletic side. I’m here to tell you about the person, Karl.

He has a smile that could light up an entire gym and he is wise beyond his years. You only have to meet him once to realize all of that in an instant. Karl’s excitement to play at Kentucky is palpable. With every tweet, every Instagram pic and every interview he’s saying over and over, I’m so happy to be a part of UK. This kid gets it. He’s the kind of kid that once you meet him, you swear he couldn’t just be 17. He’s so polite and has a kindness about him that instantly puts you at ease. He’s the perfect recruit to prove my point that Cal, not only recruits great athletes but great people as well. Karl Towns, will do big things at UK on the court. There is no doubt about that but he’s also going to do them off as well. He already is. I should know I’ve had the pleasure of already witnessing it.

I met Karl, and his parents at Big Blue Madness last year. They were all very sweet. They are the kind of people you meet and end up feeling like you’ve known for years. They were ecstatic to be at UK. They chatted with every fan, laughed, took pics and shook hands. I knew in that moment Karl Towns, would be a CAT. The love for UK and Big Blue Nation was written all over their faces. From that meeting on, I followed Karl, even more closely. I read all of his interviews once, sometimes twice and I followed him on Twitter. I enjoyed watching him grow and accomplish his goals. I was so proud of him. You see it might have been just one meeting but Karl Towns, left a impression on me that will last a lifetime.

That’s why as I was scrolling thru my Twitter timeline last April, I came across this tweet of Karl’s and immediately felt a sense of pride. Karl, had just tweeted about taking part in an Autism Awareness Walk and had even went so far to say, “Love someone with Autism.” I am a proud mom of an Autistic son. My oldest son, Gavin was diagnosed when he was only 3 years old. He is the reason why I understand the need for Autism Awareness firsthand and that’s why on that day when I read Karl’s tweet bringing attention to Autism, I had to fight back tears. What continued on in that conversation is something I will never forget and I hope after reading it, you won’t forget it either.
Karl Towns has the goodwill, charity and drive to make other peoples lives better that so many of Calipari’s players before him have possessed. Yes, stats are nice but some things can’t be measured in a record book and that’s what you give back to the world. That’s what makes a player special. That’s what matters the most when the final buzzer has sounded and the final light has been turned off in the gym. Did you make a difference in the world for the better? Did you use all of your talent for the best? My son and I are here to tell you, Karl Towns already has.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Karl Towns Jr. played for the Dominican Republic national team for the second straight summer and called it a “blessing” to be part of that team.

“Playing for the national team is such a great experience,” Towns said. “You don’t play for yourself, you play for your country. You are playing for a lot more than yourself. Everything changes. Your philosophy changes. It means a lot to put on the jersey and represent your country.

“Then you learn so much from older players, guys who are in the NBA. You learn the tricks of the trade and things you never thought about. It just raises the IQ level of your game and gives you so much experience.”

He has no doubt playing for the national team helps prepare him for his future career at UK.

“When I go to Kentucky, I will play for everybody. Not just myself, but the fans who also want to win a national title and have us win every game possible,” Towns said. “I will go out every night and look for wins for Kentucky, and so will my teammates. Wins will be all that matters.”

John Calipari coached the Dominican team in 2012 while UK assistant Orlando Antigua was the coach this summer. Towns said there were a lot of “similarities”between the two coaches.

“For me, the biggest difference from last year to this year was my body had changed a lot. My mentality was just to do my job, compete and produce,” Towns said. “I got good, quality minutes. But playing for them both was great for me. I know coach Cal is my head coach at Kentucky. I feel I have the system down and think it is going to be great for me at Kentucky.”

Towns makes 500 3-pointers daily in individual workouts, but he emphasizes he’s a post player, not a perimeter player.

“I  have been working so hard on my post moves that I feel very comfortable in the post or shooting a 3,” he said. “I shot one 3 the whole tournament (with the Dominican team) and that was with one second left (in the game). I like staying in the post. I was very efficient there and my numbers were good. I feel so comfortable on the post and know I can do more damage and be more efficient for my team on the post.”

Towns says his father taught him early to become versatile on the basketball court, one reason his shooting and ballhandling skills on the perimeter are so good for a seven-footer.

“I always try to be the most versatile player on the court,” Towns said. “I have a competitive attitude and always want to be the best at everything I do. I don’t want anybody to be better than me. I look at things to do better than anybody else. I go into the game and want to be the best and most versatile player daily and want to do what I can to be ready to help Kentucky win a national title next season.”

Towns’ father says much of what his son does comes “naturally” but he refined his skills through extra work.

“At a young age, dad needed to say, ‘Let’s go.’ Now he has a regiment set up. He goes to lift weights for an hour and a half, then goes to the lab (gym) for two hours, gets up shots, does post moves,” Karl Towns Sr. said. “I think playing for the Dominican team and being around the game at the highest level has given him the mindset to know what he needs to do to improve.

“I am so proud of him. We are best friends. We do everything together. Our father-son bond is strong. When we are in the gym, we are just like any father-son. We argue. We fight. He wants to do it one way, I want it another way. But once we put in our work, it’s all love and respect. In the gym it’s business, and he loves his time in the gym. I’ve always told him his work and sacrifice would pay dividends, and it has.”

Now the New Jersey senior is ready to hopefully lead his team to another high school state championship.

“I am doing everything I can working out that will help me down the road at Kentucky. But what I am doing right now will also help my team this year,” Towns said. “I can’t wait for the season to come around. We’ve had so much success and I want to keep that going or maybe even have more than we have the last two years.”

Towns sounded like he might back off his plan to play baseball — he’s a first baseman/pitcher — after basketball ends.

“I did get in the batting cages overseas,” Towns said. “Right now I have to worry about basketball season. After that I may need to be training for Kentucky, or I may play baseball.”

If he doesn’t play baseball, that could give him more time to play golf. He regularly drives the ball 325 yards or more and recalled hitting a tee shot on a par-four recently to within three feet of the cup.

“I play like Tiger (Woods). It’s all or nothing,” Towns said.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky commit Karl Towns Jr. admits he’s “excited” to have Chicago point guard Tyler Ulis as a member of his 2014 recruiting class. But Towns doesn’t worry about reaching out to other players that UK coach John Calipari is recruiting.

“Whenever they want to talk to me about Kentucky, they talk,” said Towns, a 7-0 center from New Jersey. “I won’t go into details about who, but I do talk to some guys. But I feel with Kentucky, especially with coach Cal, that there is not much need for me to do any recruiting. He gets great talent every year. I will never worry about who he gets. I am not worried about that at all because I know he’ll get great players.”

 

By LARRY VAUGHT

Recently Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) of Slamonline.com  caught up with Kentucky basketball commit Karl Towns Jr. of New Jersey and got some interesting quotes from the future Wildcat. Here’s two questions that define a lot about Towns’ personality and talent.

SLAM: At Kentucky, freshmen are often expected to take on a leadership role. What can you bring to the locker room as a leader?

Towns: “I’m a big-time demander. I demand you to do something. I think I have something like a potent attitude where I really need my teammates to do what I want them to do. If they don’t do it, then I’m gonna be really upset and I’m gonna make you do it. St. Joe’s people know how I am. The team knows how I am. I’m very demanding and I expect the most of everyone. If you don’t give me the most, then I want you to sit down and not play.”

SLAM: Many think that, right now, you’re the leading candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. What are your thoughts on that?

Towns: “For me, I feel those are realistic expectations and aspirations. I work real hard in the gym and I just expect the highest from myself. So, if I do everything I can and, god-willing, everything goes right, then I could see myself being the No. 1 pick and I could see myself having a very talented career. I just need to continue to work on my body, keep myself healthy and I can go a long way.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Karl Towns Jr. is an elite basketball player. When you are a teenage who is 7-feet tall, can handle the basketball and have 3-point range, your destined for stardom. He’s already played against many of the best NBA players and will again be on the Dominican Republic National Team this summer.

That’s why I see no reason to overreact to the New Jersey prep standout admitting that he’s thinking about playing baseball for St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, New Jersey, during his senior year before he heads off to play basketball for Kentucky and coach John Calipari.

Here is what Towns, who won’t be 18 until November and was the youngest player at the Nike Hoop Summit in April, recently told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com.

“Yeah, I’m thinking about playing baseball for St. Joe’s, so I’m really happy,” Towns said. “I’m trying to make a return.”

Some will wonder if Towns, who also likes to play golf but seldom has time to do that, is risking too much injury-wise by playing baseball and possibly  putting undue stress on his arm and shoulder if he pitches as he did before he walked away from the game. But remember, Towns told me in an earlier interview there was a time he walked away from basketball because he thought he loved baseball more.

“I actually quit basketball and wanted to be a baseball star,” Towns said. “I didn’t want to play basketball any more. That was about three years ago I think. But after three weeks of playing baseball, I missed basketball. I was a pitcher, first baseman, outfielder, third baseman. I loved it. My dad was a little irked that I quit basketball, but he supported me and went to all my games across the country.

“I sill love baseball, but since I took that break from basketball and came back my drive for basketball has been at a high level. That break gave  me an even greater passion for basketball, and I needed that.”

Now maybe he just needs a break from the spotlight and year-round grind of basketball. What’s wrong with letting a youngster enjoy himself and just play a sport because he thinks it will be fun? He’s going to be playing basketball for a long time — maybe one year at UK and then the NBA — so if he wants a two-month break, so be it.

By LARRY VAUGHT

It was obvious at last season’s Marshall County Hoop Fest that Chicago center Cliff Alexander was a special talent and it’s no surprise he’s considered one of the nation’s top players in the 2014 recruiting class.

He’ll be back at the Marshall County Hoop Fest in December and by then could have signed with Kentucky, Michigan State or Illinois.

Jeremy Wood of Zagsblog.com talked to Alexander while he was playing in an AAU event in Minneapolis last weekend where he even made two 3-point shots during two dominant performances.

“I’ve been working on my post moves, a little bit of my ball handling and my jump shot,” Alexander told Wood. “Coaches have been saying I’ve developed a lot. I can shoot the jump shot, run the floor, rebound and block shots.”

Kentucky got an early commitment from 2014 center Karl Towns Jr. of New Jersey — but Alexander told Wood that’s no reason for him to mark UK off his list.

“They want to develop me, get me like a Terrence Jones and I’m looking forward to that. (Karl Towns) and I can play together — he’s a five and I’m a four. We’ll work from there,” Alexander said.

 

Imagine a frontcourt with both Towns and Alexander. That would be a big, physical duo for any team and certainly as imposing as Anthony Davis and Jones were during UK’s national championship season.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Karl Towns Jr. will be playing in the Nike Hoop Summit Saturday night in Portland and will be in front of many large crowds during his collegiate and professional careers if all goes as planned. He says Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three and injured almost 200 won’t change how he lives, but it did touch him.

“It’s just one of those things that is so terrifying in America where we think we have the most safe country and yet something radical like this could happen,” Towns said. “It is very scary. But you never know what life holds. I live every day to the fullest and leave nothing on the table. Life is so short, you can never know when it will become shorter.

“My prayers and best wishes go out to the families of the injured and dead. It is one of those things that is so tragic, but it will make our country stronger. I play for the Dominicans, but I am still an American and my heart hurts for those families who had loved ones killed or hurt.”
——Larry Vaught

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