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- Kentucky senior Jon Hood named to SEC Community Service Team
- Future Cats Trey Lyles, Karl Towns, Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis all will paly in Jordan Brand All-American Game
- John Calipari hopes “cooler heads” come together to change one-and-done to two-and-done
- Kentucky fourth No. 1 preseason team to drop totally out of AP top 25
- John Calipari says Cats have to be scrappier, play more physical and share the ball a lot better
- Kentucky QB Patrick Towles will work out with QB guru George Whitfield over spring break
- John Calipari says great players make 2-on-1 look simple and UK “makes those look harder”
- John Calipari: “… just keep making that pass. Make it 22 times”
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.”
Check out the NJ Gatorade Player of the Year’s 2012-13 junior season highlights as he lead St. Joseph-Metuchen to a back-to-back NJSIAA Non-Public A state title. In early December, Karl committed to Kentucky and announced he will reclassify to the class of 2014 which would make him a senior next season. Towns, known as a 3 point specialist, proved he has all-around game this season by handling the ball, attacking the rim and dishing it out to his teammates. The 17 year old 7’1″ center averaged 20.6 points, 14.0 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per game all while maintaining a 4.2 GPA. In case you missed it, he recorded a quadruple double this year and broke a rim the same game. If you haven’t checked out his freshman year mixtape or the quadruple double, be sure to click the annotations at the end of the video.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Since he’s been an AAU basketball coach for 18 years, Karl Towns Sr. had little choice but to often taken his son, Karl Jr., with him to basketball practices.
“He started playing basketball when he was 2 years old and would come to the gym with me,” said Towns Sr. “My wife was working, so it would be up to me to get him ready and keep him busy. He would jump right in and play with my AAU guys. He got to play with guys like Dexter Strickland, Kasim Drummond, DeSean Butler, all NBA guys. He really started liking it and enjoying it and wanting to work even harder.
“When he was 10 or 11, he started getting bigger. That’s when I knew he would be good. His feet were big. Now he is almost 7-1 and wears a size 20 shoe.”
The New Jersey standout and has become one of the nation’s best prep players and has already verbally committed to Kentucky. He also reclassified to the 2014 recruiting class when he did that.
“I have to fight to keep him out of the gym. He wants to be in there every day, but I guess that is a good thing,” Towns Sr. said. “We go six days a week. His only day off is Sunday. He’ll practice two to three hours a day and has been practicing like that since he was in second grade. I was always in the gym, so he was always there. When he got to middle school, he was taking 500 jump shots a day.”
The UK commit’s father was a prolific rebounder during his college career at Monmouth University. He led the nation in rebounding one year and was third his other season after spending his first two years at a junior college.
“I didn’t have all those luxuries of playing against great players my whole life. I had to play with kids in the park, but he’s only played with the best players, so he’s only had the best teaching. That’s why his game is so much above most kids his age,” Towns’ father said.
Karl Towns Jr. has ballhandling and shooting skills to play on the perimeter as well as size and skills to play inside. He was on the Dominican national team coached by UK coach John Calipari last summer and played with and against NBA stars.
“He basically was living the life of a NBA player. He went on trips with a guy like Al Horford. He was boxing out Kevin Durant. What kid in the country had the chance to experience what he did at his age? There’s never been another high school kid make the Olympic team and then he was in Las Vegas (for an exhibition game) hitting a 3 over Carmelo Anthony. Come on, that’s unreal,” Towns Sr. said.
“He wants to be at the highest level. He knows his game has to be more polished, more physical at the next level. His mindset is he wants to get to college and move on. He is working on stuff to use at a higher level. I want him to improve his dribbling, shooting, strength, agility. At this point, Karl has to get his body ready for a higher level.”
Even during his junior season, Towns Jr. is working out twice a week to increase his weight and strength in addition to playing games and practicing with his New Jersey team.
“His regimen is crazy,” Towns Sr. said. “He still lifts, run and does speed and agility work while he’s going to basketball practice. He just wants to do what it takes to please the coaches at Kentucky. His workout ethic is incredible. He’s just trying to be the best player and student he can be.”
Despite his athletic prowess, he’s also an honor rolls student. His father is a school teacher and his mother works at a university.
“We’ve always been serious about grades. Without good grades, there’s nowhere to go,” Towns’ father said. “He knows if he gets anything under a 4.0 GPA, in our minds we are going to shut him down. God willing and if everything goes right and he plays at the next level, we will want him to have a career after basketball. He’s been a great student. That’s why he can be on track to graduate a year early.”
Towns Sr. said his son is also “kind hearted” and recently put on a note on his shoes remembering those killed in the recent school shooting in nearby Connecticut. Another time he told the parents of a sargeant killed in Afghanistan he would score one point for every year of their son’s life.
“He went out that night and got 25 points, one point for every year of that young man’s life,” Towns Sr. said. “He’s humble and grounded. It’s not about him. He just enjoys being himself and that’s why people like him. He’s just a good kid. Talk to any coach in the country and they’ll tell you he’s a nice kid. Sometimes it’s hard to believe this kid really is still only in high school.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Just in case the nation’s top sophomore was debating whether he was ready to verbally commit to Kentucky in less than two weeks, the Wildcats showcased a lot of reasons for Karl Towns Jr. of New Jersey to join them during a 104-75 victory over Long Island-Brooklyn here Friday.
The 6-11 Towns was seen wearing a Kentucky hat and T-shirt as his Dec. 4 announcement looms and he got to see plenty of offense from coach John Calipari’s team. This was UK’s second time to score 100 or more points — and remember that last year’s national championship team only got to 100 points twice in 40 games.
However, the Cats still need work on defense — Long Island led 43-40 late in the first half before UK went on a 15- run — and should not be compared to last year’s team on that end of the court. But the offense seemed to start clicking especially well late in the first half and the defense did get better the second half when the Cats opened with a smaller lineup.
“This is who we are and I like my team,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari as he listed the pros and cons he saw in the victory. “We have got to be a defensive team that rebounds like crazy and gets out and runs. Early misses or makes, they (Long Island players) were flying up the court. That’s what we want to do. We are trying to get these guys to go. When you are not playing as many guys and guys are playing 30 minutes or more, it’s hard to play a total game of running.
“We are still just learning. That’s why we watned to play these kind of teams (Morehead and Long Island) that would come after us and not be afraid. The way we have been starting games, we are letting people think they can beat us. We are learning that. Am I starting the right people? We are going to get in games in our league where we will be down 25 at halftime if we start like this. We know we have to get more physical, sprint the floor.”
Kentucky does. But the Cats still have 28 assists and just 10 turnovers — “That’s a big number,” said Calipari — and also scored 60 points in the paint against a smaller opponent.
Kentucky had plenty of players put up big numbers.
— Freshman Archie Goodwin continues to master the art of playing point guard with Ryan Harrow still absent for medical/personal reasons. He flirted with a rare triple-double — Calipari said he has know idea and would have been worried it might have been a quadruple double with 10 turnovers even though Goodwin had just three in 36 minutes — before finishing with 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field and 5-for-7 at the foul line, nine rebounds and eight assists. He also had one block and two steals.
“Archie was great. We don’t necessarily have that guy that Morehead had to go after them,” LIU-Brooklyn coach Jack Perri said. “He did a good job running the show. He gets to the rim going to his left and right. He is a talented kid. He is a big-time player.”
— Freshman Alex Poythress became the first UK freshman since Dwight Anderson in 1979 to have four straight 20-point games. He had 22 points and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. He also got his first assist of the season. Calipari still was not pleased with his overall effort, though.
“I am still screaming at Alex. I am trying to get him to understand if we want to be what we think we should be or what everybody else thinks we should be, we cannot give up on possessions,” Calipari said.
Poythress knows and was also a bit humbled to learn how long it had been since a UK freshman had scored 20 or more points in four straight games.
“If that’s right, that’s quite an honor. I had no idea,” he said.
— Center Nerlens Noel continued to fill the stat sheet and show he could do more than just block shots. He finished with 18 points — he was 9-for-11 from the field just like Poythress — and also had eight rebounds, five assists and five blocks in 30 minutes. Freshman teammate Willie Cauley-Stein got more playing time — 25 minutes — and responded with 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. He also drew praise for his defense on Jamal Olasewere, LIU-Brooklyn’s leading scorer and rebounder who finished with 22 points and two boards.
“They got 60 points in the paint. They obviously did a great job of focusing on doing that. We talked about crowding the post and did not do a great job. We were late, but don’t know if it would have mattered. They all shot a ridiculous percentage (Uk was 42-for-62 from the field for 67.7 percent),” Perri said.
— Junior Jarrod Polson once again came off the bench to give UK a spark with his hustle, heads-up play. He had five points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal in 19 minutes and Calipari says even if Harrow comes back this weekend as expected, he’ll have to fight his way past Polson for playing time.
“He knows what is expected. In pick and roll right now, I kept telling him he keeps looking at the screen because he does not want to get hit,” Calipari said. “But when you are talking about him offensively, he has played against some of the best players in college basketball the last few years and done well (in practice). He makes the 3. I am confident in him at the free throw line. He is also scrappy. With 50-50 balls, he comes up as well as anybody on our team.”
Kentucky doesn’t play again until Thursday when it faces its first true road test at Notre Dame, a game Poythress knows will help answer more questions about this team.
“We are excited. We want to see what the fans will be like. We want to see how we do. Every game we learn something,” Poythress said.
And the more UK learns, the better it will be.